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Critters of New York

Bodega Cat Exonerated in Stunning Court Decision

A deli worker remains solvent and a cat remains unbothered.

1:01 PM EDT on August 29, 2022

A courtroom sketch of Joseph Blanco v. G&J Deli Food Corp. (Kelly Grace Price)

In June, Hell Gate reported on a Manhattan small claims case involving Negrito, a bodega cat who by most accounts has spent the majority of his life on the corner of Audubon and West 187th in Washington Heights. The trial, which included two dogs serving as character witnesses and several submissions of video evidence, unfolded over the course of a few rather chaotic hours, and we encourage you to read our coverage in full here. But briefly: This April, a resident of the neighborhood was walking his pit bull puppy when Negrito allegedly attacked the dog, incurring significant veterinary bills. Arguing that the cat belonged to the bodega in which it was occasionally fed, the resident filed suit against the manager of the deli, seeking a not-insignificant sum of $5,000. 

We’re pleased to announce that on August 4, the Honorable Elena Baron reached a decision on Joseph Blanco v. G&J Deli Food Corp.

It reads as follows: 

After trial this case is dismissed. It is well settled in New York that when harm is caused by a domesticated animal, its owners liability is determined solely by application of the rule articulated in Collier v. Zambito, 1NY3d 444 (2004), a rule that requires a finding that the domesticated animals’ owner knew or should have known of the animals’ vicious propensities before strict liability for the animals’ actions can be imposed. Bernstein v. Penny Whistle Toys, Inc., 40 AD3D 224 (1st dept. 2007). Claimant here failed to present any evidence stating either that the cat at issue had any vicious propensities or that the alleged owner or caretaker of the cat knew of such propensities that would endanger the safety of the persons and property of others. Accordingly, the case is dismissed.

The cat remains in good spirits, and is still often spotted in front of the deli it occasionally calls home: 

The exonerated animal enjoys his freedom. (Kelly Grace Price)
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