Court Finds Domestic Animal Owner Has Duty to Prevent Injuries if Animal Belongs to Class “Naturally Inclined” to Cause Injuries.

A two-year old plaintiff visited a retail store located on a farm. He was injured when a horse he was petting bit him, removing a large portion of his cheek. In an action for damages, the owner moved for summary judgment, arguing that he had no actual or constructive knowledge of any vicious tendencies of the specific horse that bit the plaintiff. The district court granted summary judgment, but the appeals court reversed, holding that negligence can be proven against the owner of a domestic animal by proof of “natural propensities” of the species to “do mischief or be vicious,” rather than only proof of the tendencies of a specific animal.  On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed, finding that, as a matter of law, the owner or keeper of a domestic animal has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent the animal from causing injuries that are foreseeable because the animal belongs to a class of animals that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries, regardless of whether the animal had previously caused an injury or was roaming at large. The Court found that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether it was reasonably foreseeable that the horse would bite the minor plaintiff causing his injury because horses, as a species, have a natural inclination to bite. The Court remanded the case for trial. Vendrella v. Astriab Family Ltd. P'ship, No. 18949, 311 Conn. 301, 2014 Conn. LEXIS 79 (Conn. Sup. Ct. April 14, 2014).

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