Torts II, Pages 761–763

Sandy v. Bushey

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine, 1925

Facts:

Plaintiff turned his mule out to pasture. Defendant's horse was also in this pasture. When plaintiff was feeding his mule, defendant's horse kicked him.

Procedural History:

Jury returned a verdict for plaintiff.

Issue:

Is defendant strictly liable for his horse kicking plaintiff?

Rules:

  • LexisNexis IconCaseMine LogoCasetext LogoPage 761–762

    [O]wners or keepers of domestic animals are not answerable for an injury done by them in a place where they have a right to be

    Exception:

    If, however, 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.

    Explanation:

    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.
  • Contributory negligence is not a defense to SL.

  • Assumption of risk is a defense to SL.

Reasoning:

  • Defendant's horse had exhibited a vicious disposition before the day of the injury, and defendant had been informed of this.

  • As Maine follows strict liability in injuries by animals, the defense of contributory negligence does not apply.

  • Plaintiff tried to avoid defendant's horse, so it cannot be said that he voluntarily put himself in a way to be injured.

Holding:

Yes, defendant is strictly liable without defense. Affirmed.