That One About the Dog and the Mail Carrier…(NY)

In Jackson v. Georgalos, plaintiff, a United States Postal employee, was injured as she attempted to deliver mail to the defendants’ residence. Plaintiff claimed that as she approached the house, defendants’ dog, who was barking and jumping up against the storm door, caused the door to fly open, and ran out. As the plaintiff attempted to flee from the dog, she twisted her ankle and fell on defendants’ steps.

In New York, to recover upon a theory of strict liability in tort for a dog bite or attack, a plaintiff must prove that the dog had vicious propensities and that the owner of the dog, or a person in control of the premises where the dog was, knew or should have known of such propensities. These propensities can be evidenced by a prior attack, the dog’s status as a guard dog, a tendency to snarl, growl, show teeth, or a tendency to act in a way that puts others at risk of harm.

Here, defendants moved for summary judgment, establishing their prima facie entitlement to same through their deposition testimony. Specifically, the defendants testified that their dog had lived with them and their small children for five years, that their dog was friendly and had never growled at, chased, bitten, or attacked anyone, and that their dog had never acted aggressively toward a mail carrier. In opposition, plaintiff was unable to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendants were aware of the dog’s purported propensity to run out of the house and chase after people. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed.

Special thanks to Lauren Tarangelo for her contributions to this post. For more information, please e-mail Bob Cosgrove .