William Mattar Attorney Gives Speech on Animal Owner Liability

by mlederhouse | September 23rd, 2016

The Erie Institute of Law offered a CLE Program on Thursday September 22, 2016 in downtown Buffalo.  Speaker, Matthew Kaiser, Esq. of William Mattar law offices discussed the topic of domestic animal owner liability after the Court of Appeals’ recent decisions in Hastings v. Suave and Doerr v. Goldsmith.  The program highlighted both Hastings and Doerr decisions and the impact on animal owner liability jurisprudence in the Fourth Department, Appellate Division.  This is the intermediate division appellate court that hears appeals from trial courts in Western and Central New York.

Before the Hastings decision, owners of domestic animals could be found liable on a “strict liability” theory, which required a showing that the owner was aware of the animal’s “vicious propensities.”  Kaiser explained in his speech that while an animal’s vicious propensities can be established by proof of a prior attack, it can also encompass any act that might endanger the safety of others. In Hastings the Court of Appeals fashioned an exception to this general rule, allowing an injured person to proceed on a “negligence” theory against an owner or landowner who allows a farm animal to stray from the property on which the animal is kept.

“The program surveyed Fourth Department case law from over the past three decades, exploring the vitality of those cases in light of a recent line of authority from the State’s highest court. By staying abreast of the latest changes in the law, we can better serve our clients.”

-Matthew Kaiser, EsqMatt Kaiser