University of Vermont AAHS

Young v. Tirrell

New York Appellate Division
767 N.Y.S.2d 121
November 17, 2003

Summary of Opinion

Plaintiff Young sued the defendant Tirrell for a death caused by a horse on defendantís property.  The trial court granted judgment for the defendant on the ground he was not liable because the property had been leased from him at the time of the accident.  In this opinion, the Appellate Division upholds that decision.  For a landowner of leased property to be liable in this circumstance the horse must have a vicious propensity that was known to the owner.  Such was not shown to be the case here.

Text of Opinion

In an action to recover damages for personal injuries and wrongful death, etc., the plaintiffs appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Orange County (Peter C. Patsalos, J.), dated November 8, 2002, which, upon the granting of the defendants' motion pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law at the close of the plaintiffs' case, dismissed the complaint.

 ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, with costs.

 Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs and giving them the benefit of every favorable inference (see Zboray v. Fessler, 154 A.D.2d 367, 545 N.Y.S.2d 844), the Supreme Court correctly granted the defendants' motion pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law at the close of the plaintiff's case due to the plaintiffs' failure to make out a prima facie case.  To impose liability against an out-of-possession landlord for injuries caused by a tenant's animal on a theory of strict liability, a plaintiff must prove that the landlord had notice of the animal's presence, knew or should have known of its vicious propensities, and had the ability to control the premises or confine or remove the animal (see Madaia v. Petro, 291 A.D.2d 482, 738 N.Y.S.2d 676;  Mehl v. Fleisher, 234 A.D.2d 274, 650 N.Y.S.2d 784).  The plaintiffs adduced no evidence that the subject horse had ever exhibited any vicious propensities.  Insofar as the plaintiffs seek to impute alleged causative mistreatment of the horse to the defendants, their claims are without merit, since any failure to care for the horse was attributable to the tenants on the farm who owned the horse, and not to the defendants.  Moreover, the plaintiffs did not establish any actionable negligence attributable to the defendants (see Williams v. City of New York, 306 A.D.2d 203, 761 N.Y.S.2d 221;  cf.  Faller v. Schwartz, 303 A.D.2d 624, 756 N.Y.S.2d 641;  Colarusso v. Dunne, 286 A.D.2d 37, 732 N.Y.S.2d 424; St. Germain v. Dutchess County Agric. Socy., 274 A.D.2d 146, 712 N.Y.S.2d 146;  Schwartz v. Erpf Estate, 255 A.D.2d 35, 688 N.Y.S.2d 55).

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