At common law, an owner, keeper or harborer of a domestic animal owed a duty of reasonable care to others. The duty arose once the individual exercising control over the animal knew of the animals vicious propensity. In Connecticut, before liability would attach from an injurious action of a domestic animal, the owner or keeper would have to have specific notice of at least one other incident of vicious conduct before he had a duty to warn or safeguard others from the animals behavior. This was a longstanding legal principle adhered to in Pallman v Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., 117 Conn. 667,668, 167 A.2d 733 (1933).
In an more recent case, Vendrella v Astriab Family Limited Partnership, 133 Conn. App.630, 36 A3d 707 (2012), the Connecticut Appellate Court has relaxed the notice requirement from specific notice of the actions of the particular horse to a general notice requirement of whether the horse class possess a natural tendency to bite, be vicious or have a propensity to be mischievous.
In Vendrella, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff's personal injury action on a Motion for Summary Judgment. The trial court reasoned that the horse keeper had no prior notice that "Scuppy" the horse had vicious propensities. The trial court held that there was uncontradicted testimony that the owner had not seen or heard that the horse had bitten anyone before the incident. The owner also testified that he never even had an episode with any of his horses for 28 years.
On Appeal, Justice Gruendel and the Connecticut Appellate Court looked at horses as domestic animals from a general class perspective. The net result was that the court remanded the case back to the trial court holding that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the defendants had notice that the horse at issue belonged to a class of domestic animals that possessed a natural propensity to bite, thereby endangering customers who were invited on to the defendant's property, a property that had horse boarding services.
With the case remanded, the plaintiff, a young boy who was bit in the face by the horse as reported in the Connecticut appellate opinion will not be required at trial to show that the owner or keeper of Scuppy knew that Scuppy specifically had propensities to be vicious.
This relaxed general rather than specific notice requirement invoking owner/keeper duty to use reasonable care to warn of horse propensities to bite will likely result in more favorable plaintiff horse personal injury case outcomes in the future.
The Rotatori Law Firm has an experienced personal injury attorney in Stamford who can help answer questions about your accident.