ALBANY (AP) — The owners of wandering cows and the landowners responsible for keeping them fenced can be sued for negligence if the meandering livestock get involved in an accident, New York’s highest court ruled Thursday.
The Court of Appeals reversed lower courts, which had applied the usual liability test for injuries by domestic animals, such as dogs or even aggressive bulls, based on their vicious tendencies.
The six judges concluded this case, where Karen Hastings was injured when her van hit a cow on a public road, is different. They said the broader standard of common law negligence applies. They reinstated Hastings’ personal injury suit.
Hastings was injured driving at night in September 2007 when her van hit a black cow on County Route 53 in North Bangor, a hamlet near the Canadian border, according to court papers. The animal had escaped from a fenced pasture on the farm of Laurier Sauve, who let others keep cattle there.
Lower courts rejected Hastings’ claims against Sauve as well as William Delarm and Albert Williams, presumed owners of the cow, applying the strict liability standard for domestic animals that inflict injuries. The lawsuit was sent back to the lower courts Thursday, with those rulings reversed.
“There was evidence that the fence separating Sauve’s property from the road was overgrown and in bad repair,” Judge Robert Smith wrote. “In this case, while a number of important facts are disputed, the record read most favorably to the plaintiffs would support a finding that any or all of the three defendants were negligent in allowing the cow to enter the roadway.”
Calls to the attorneys were not immediately returned Thursday.