Mend fences or else: Wandering cows’ owners can be sued

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New York livestock producers, take note -- the latest ruling by the state’s highest court leaves farmers, ranchers and landowners in the hot seat if wandering livestock get involved in an accident outside of their fenced pastures.

According to the Associated Press, the latest ruling by the New York Court of Appeals reverses a decision made by lower courts in a case that pits landowners and livestock producers against drivers.

Karen Hastings was injured when her vehicle hit a cow on a public road in 2007. The animal had escaped from a fenced pasture on a farm owned by Laurier Sauve. Sauve did not own the cattle and instead let others keep cattle on his property. William Delarm and Albert Williams were named as the presumed owners of the animal.

Hastings later filed a personal injury lawsuit against Sauve, Delarm and Williams.

"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."

Livestock producers and land owners across the state could be impacted the ruling.    

"While my case was pending, I got calls from attorneys all over the state representing clients that had significant injuries including death as a result of farm animals being in the roadway," Hastings' attorney, Matthew McArdle, said.

Read, “Wandering cows: NY's highest court says owners can be sued for negligence.”

Some legal professionals such as Marc Miner, a Manhattan personal injury attorney not involved in the case, are calling the decision the most signficant easing of the state’s liability standard in at least a decade.

"The residents of New York are in a much better place than they were (before the decision) if they're injured as the result of an animal owner's negligence," Miner, of Zalman Schnurman & Miner, told Reuters in an article here.

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new york  |  May, 04, 2013 at 05:13 PM

Maybe people should slow down on country roads. Yet another argument for confinement housing. PETA will love this. Might better keep the cows inside 24/7 than take a chance at being sued. So much for cows being out on green pastures in NY. At the rate small farms are going out in central NY it won't matter much longer anyway.

pa  |  May, 06, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Must be a slow news day for dairy if this is supposed to be some sort of an epiphany. We live in a society where criminals successfully sue their victims thanks to idiotic lawyers. Don't know how it is in the rest of the country, but at least every third commerical or print advertisement in this area is for a lawyer wanting you to sue someone else who somehow wronged you.

madison  |  May, 06, 2013 at 02:28 PM

next up for the lawyer sue the state for the deer ?

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