The New York State’s highest court recently ruled in favor of a dog owner upholding the state’s venerable “one-bite rule”. Here’s what happened and what you need to know if you or someone you know is injured by a dog bite.

A Labrador mix Scooter bit an 8 year old girl in a Bridgehampton toy store in 2003 and the girl need more than 40 stitches. The girl’s parents promptly filed suit against the dog owner. The defense proved during trial that Scooter had never behaved viciously before. The dog’s owner was found not to be liable for damages to the girl because he did not have any prior notice or knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities. In New York State there is a 180 year old body of common law that suggests owners are not liable in animal attacks as long as their pets had never behaved aggressively in the past. The victim’s attorney challenged the law saying the court failed to protect New Yorkers by refusing to overrule and reverse an old rule that leaves children and adults at risk. 

The court upheld the law that says as long as your dog hasn’t bit, lunged, growled at or jumped on people before the owner is not liable. The result, dogs essentially get “one free bite”. 

What it comes down to for people who have been injured by a dog bite, is having an experienced attorney who can deeply and thoroughly investigate the dog and it’s owners past history to frame for the court sufficient evidence to prove liability.

To learn more about what to do in the event of dog bites, listen to Frank Cassisi’s pod cast on dog bites.