Dog Bites in New York Pt 2: The One Bite Rule

As stated in Part One, in order to recover for injuries sustained by a dog bite, beyond mere payment of medical bills, you must establish that the dog had vicious propensities and, that the owner of the dog knew or should of have known that the dog had vicious propensities.

What are vicious propensities?

The standard for establishing that a dog has vicious propensities extends back to 1868. The Court of Appeals held that vicious propensities include “the propensity to do any act that might endanger the safety of the persons and property of others in a given situation.” While the conventional wisdom is that New York is a one bite rule state, it is not exactly true. To be certain, if there is evidence that a dog has bitten before, it can easily establish that it had vicious propensities. But, simply because a dog has never bitten anyone does not mean that it does not have vicious propensities.

Thus, evidence that the dog bared its teeth and snarled without provocation or wears a muzzle has been held to be sufficient to establish that the dog had vicious propensities.

In addition to showing that the dog had vicious propensities, it is necessary to show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious propensities. This can be established by showing that the owner kept a muzzle on the dog, actually knew that the dog had bitten someone, knew that the dog snarled and bared its teeth without provocation or, that the owner announced to people that the dog was an attack dog.

The fact that a “beware of dog” sign is used by the owner does not, standing alone, necessarily establish that the owner knew the dog had vicious propensities.

If you can establish both that the dog had vicious propensities and that the owner knew or should have known of those propensities, the dog owner is strictly liable to you for your pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills and potentially punitive damages.