Sandy v. Bushy Case Brief

Summary of Sandy v. Bushy, S. Ct. Maine [1925]

Limitations on Strict Liability

Relevant Facts: PL Sandy turned his mare and colt out in the pasture of a neighbor. Other horses occupied the pasture during the season, including the df’s three-year old colt. Pl went to the pasture to grain his mare and, while so doing, was kicked by the df’s horse and seriously injured.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the court should impose strict liability upon the df for keeping and owning a domestic animal that caused an injury to the pl?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: On Motion from Superior Court, at Law. Action by Joseph Sandy against A. W. Bushey. Jury verdict for plaintiff. Df excepted on general motion. Motion overruled, (affirmed).

Law or Rule(s): Owners or keepers of domestic animals are not answerable for an injury done by them in a place where they have a right to be, unless the animals in fact, and to the owners’ knowledge, are vicious.

Court Rationale: If a person keeps a vicious or dangerous animal which he knows is accustomed to attack and injure mankind, he assumes the obligation of an insurer against injury by such animal, and no measure of care in its keeping will excuse him. His liability is founded upon the keeping of such an animal when he has knowledge of its vicious propensities, and his care or negligence is immaterial. In an action for an injury caused by such an animal, the plaintiff has only to allege and prove the keeping, the vicious propensities, and the scienter. This rule of liability of keepers of domestic animals finds its origin in the ancient common law and, except as modified by statute in case of injuries by dogs, is retained as the rule of law in this class of cases in this state.

A careful consideration of the evidence discloses facts which fairly tend to establish that the defendant’s horse had exhibited a vicious and ugly disposition at various times prior to the day on which the plaintiff was injured, and notice of the animal’s vicious propensities had been brought home to the defendant.

In this state the negligence doctrine has not been accepted and contributory negligence can’t constitute a defense. Exclusion of negligence as the basis of liability forbids the inclusion of contributory negligence as a defense. Something more than slight negligence or want of due care on the part of the injured party must be shown in order to relieve the keeper of a vicious domestic animal known to be such from his liability as an insurer.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The df had knowledge or should have had knowledge that the horse was predisposed to vicious attacks on people.

Defendant’s Argument: The df kept the animal in its rightful place, and the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence and cannot, therefore, recover in this action.

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