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.
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.