(CN) – The owner of a pit bull is not liable for a housekeeper’s shoulder injury, a New York appeals court ruled, finding that the dog was rambunctious, not vicious.
Monica Clark had sought damages related to an injury she sustained in October 2011 while working as a housekeeper for Daniel Heaps.
In addition to cleaning, Clark cared for Heaps’ three dogs, including a pit bull named Heidi.
Clark allegedly injured her shoulder one day while sitting in an outside hammock as the dogs played. She said Heidi knocked the hammock out from under her by hopping into and out of it.
On Oct. 23, a five-judge appellate panel in Albany affirmed the finding of the Delaware County Supreme Court that Clark does not have a case for negligence or strict liability.
Justice Elizabeth Garry explained that Clark failed to prove that Heidi was vicious, rather than just a “rambunctious” dog displaying “normal canine behavior.”
The court heard testimony from Heaps that Heidi liked to jump into the hammock because she “liked to be with people.”
Sometimes Heidi would jump out of the hammock, but she had never hurt anyone while doing so, Heaps said.
This testimony established that Heaps did not know of any “vicious propensity” of Heidi’s and shifted the burden of proof to Clark, Garry said.
In her appeal, Clark had cited Heaps’ testimony that he had once been hurt breaking up a dog fight involving Heidi.
The court nevertheless found this evidence “not relevant to the conduct at issue here,” saying it “does not reveal a proclivity to behave in the manner causing the injury – that is, knocking a person out of a hammock.”