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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York

Ruffin v. Wood
New York
95 A.D.3d 1290 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.)


Case Details
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Summary:  

While the plaintiff was tending her garden, the defendant's dog jumped on a chain-linked fence that separated the plaintiff's and defendant's property. Startled, the plaintiff fell and injured herself. As a result of the incident, the plaintiff brought a personal injury suit against the defendant. While defendant conceded that the dog sometimes "jumped on people he knew in a playful manner," the dog never bit anyone or acted aggressively. Finding the dog had no vicious propensities, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the court found there was ample support for the jury verdict based on the evidence at trial. Further, the court found plaintiff's contention that she was deprived of a fair trial is without merit.



Judge PETER B. SKELOS, J.P., ANITA R. FLORIO, SHERI S. ROMAN, and ROBERT J. MILLER, JJ. delivered the opinion of the court.


Opinion of the Court:


*1 In an action to recover damages for personal injuries, the plaintiff appeals from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Battaglia, J.), dated July 19, 2011, which, upon the denial of her motion pursuant to CPLR 4401, made at the close of evidence, for judgment as a matter of law, upon a jury verdict in favor of the defendants and against her, and upon an order of the same court dated June 21, 2011, which denied her motion pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to set aside the jury verdict and for judgment as a matter of law, is in favor of the defendants and against her dismissing the complaint.

ORDERED that on the Court's own motion, the notice of appeal from the order dated June 21, 2011, is deemed to be a premature notice of appeal from the judgment ( see CPLR 5520[c] ); and it is further,

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed; and it is further,

ORDERED that one bill of costs is awarded to the defendants.

The plaintiff was tending her garden near a chain link fence separating her property from the defendants' property when the defendants' dog came running out into the defendants' backyard and jumped on the fence in front of the plaintiff. Startled, the plaintiff took a step back and fell, injuring herself. The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendants to recover damages for personal injuries. At trial, the Supreme Court denied the plaintiff's motion pursuant to CPLR 4401, made at the close of evidence, for judgment as a matter of law. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants, finding that their dog did not have vicious propensities on the date of the plaintiff's accident. The plaintiff moved pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to set aside the jury verdict and for judgment as a matter of law, and the Supreme Court denied her motion. The plaintiff appeals, and we affirm.

Contrary to the plaintiff's contention, the Supreme Court properly denied her motion pursuant to CPLR 4401, made at the close of evidence, for judgment as a matter of law ( see generally Szczerbiak v. Pilat, 90 N.Y.2d 553, 556, 664 N.Y.S.2d 252, 686 N.E.2d 1346). Also contrary to the plaintiff's contention, the Supreme Court properly denied her motion pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) which was to set aside the jury verdict and for judgment as a matter of law ( see generally Cohen v. Hallmark Cards, 45 N.Y.2d 493, 499, 410 N.Y.S.2d 282, 382 N.E.2d 1145).

At trial, the plaintiff testified that a similar incident had occurred approximately two years prior to the subject incident, in which the defendants' dog had charged at the fence while she and her husband were in their backyard, startling them. Although the defendants admitted that the dog sometimes jumped on people he knew in a playful manner, they testified that the dog had never bitten or attacked anyone or, to their knowledge, displayed any aggressive tendencies toward people. Furthermore, the defendants also testified that the dog had full run of the house and had lived for several years without incident in a household with three young children and two cats.

*2 Consequently, there was a valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could lead rational people to the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence presented at trial ( see Soto v. New York City Tr. Auth., 6 N.Y.3d 487, 492, 813 N.Y.S.2d 701, 846 N.E.2d 1211; Cohen v. Hallmark Cards, 45 N.Y.2d at 499, 410 N.Y.S.2d 282, 382 N.E.2d 1145). Moreover, to the extent that the plaintiff argues that the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence, this argument is without merit, as the jury verdict was supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence ( see Sorel v. Iacobucci, 221 A.D.2d 852, 633 N.Y.S.2d 688; compare Muller v. Boyd, 50 A.D.3d 867, 855 N.Y.S.2d 651; see generally Lolik v. Big v. Supermarkets, 86 N.Y.2d 744, 631 N.Y.S.2d 122, 655 N.E.2d 163).

The plaintiff's contention that she was deprived of a fair trial is without merit.


 

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