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Firm Wins in New York’s Highest Court

Establishes New Rule for Individuals Injured by Uncontrolled Livestock in the Road

In a case that has changed the law in New York, New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals held that owners of farm animals, and landowners who are responsible for keeping them contained, can be sued for negligence if the uncontrolled livestock cause an accident. Matthew H. McArdle, partner at Fischer, Bessette, Muldowney & McArdle, LLP , successfully briefed and argued this landmark case. 

In September 2007, Karen Hastings was driving at night on County Route 53 in North Bangor, when she struck a black cow in the roadway. The animal had escaped from a pasture with a severely dilapidated fence. 

Lower courts had rejected claims by Mrs. Hasting's suit against the property owner and the owner of the cow, applying the strict liability standard for domestic animals that cause injuries. The Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts and held that the simple negligence standard applied. Under this standard, it would have to be proven that the owner or landowner was negligent in keeping the cow off the road. 

In a statement, Mr. McArdle said, "I am extremely pleased with the Decision of the Court of Appeals. This Decision will have wide effect State-wide, and is one of the most significant decisions in this area of the law over the last decade." 

The Court of Appeals hears a limited number of cases annually, and considers only those cases with the greatest State-wide legal significance. 

Read more about this decision in articles published in the Wall Street Journal and Plattsburgh Press Republican.

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