Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves a plaintiff, Joni Fraser, who was attacked by two pit bulls owned by a tenant, Hebe Crocker, who rented a single-family residence from landlords Ali Farvid and Lilyana Amezcua. Fraser sued both Crocker and the landlords. After settling with Crocker, the case proceeded against the landlords. A jury found that the landlords had actual knowledge of the dangerous propensity of the dogs and could have prevented foreseeable harm to Fraser, awarding her damages exceeding $600,000. However, the trial court granted the landlords' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), finding no substantial evidence to demonstrate the landlords' knowledge of the dogs' dangerous propensities.Under California law, a landlord who lacks actual knowledge of a tenant's dog's vicious nature cannot be held liable when the dog attacks a third person. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's ruling. The Court held that the email from a neighbor mentioning "guard dogs" did not constitute substantial evidence that the landlords knew or must have known the dogs were dangerous. The Court also rejected the plaintiff's argument that the landlords' alleged false statements denying knowledge of the dogs constituted evidence of their knowledge of the dogs' dangerous nature. The Court concluded that there was no direct or circumstantial evidence that the landlords knew or should have known the dogs were dangerous. View "Fraser v. Farvid" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Florida held that multiple punishments can be imposed for distinct acts springing from successive impulses to violate a single criminal prohibition in the course of a single criminal episode. In this case, the Petitioner, David William Trappman, was convicted of battery of a law enforcement officer and aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer during a single encounter. The first conviction was a result of Trappman shoving an officer, and the second conviction came from Trappman siccing a pit bull on the same officer. Trappman argued that the protection against double jeopardy precluded his dual convictions and sentences as they were part of a single criminal episode. The court disagreed, concluding that the shoving of the officer and the subsequent siccing of the dog on the officer were distinct criminal acts for which separate punishments were properly imposed. The court disapproved of previous cases that failed to apply the distinct acts test, which focuses on successive impulses. View "Trappman v. State" on Justia Law

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This case before the Indiana Supreme Court involved the intersection of a successful Section 1983 federal action and Indiana’s public-employee indemnification statute. The plaintiff, Kailee Leonard, hit and killed a dog belonging to a state conservation officer, Scott Johnson. In response, Officer Johnson pursued misdemeanor charges against Leonard for leaving the scene of the accident. Leonard was subsequently charged but never arrested, and the charges were later dropped at Officer Johnson's request. Leonard then filed a federal lawsuit against Officer Johnson, claiming false arrest. The jury found in Leonard's favor, awarding her $10,000 in damages and $52,462 in attorney’s fees and costs. Unable to pay the full amount, Officer Johnson assigned his indemnification rights against the State to Leonard and her attorney. Leonard subsequently sued the State for a declaratory judgment that the State had a duty to indemnify Officer Johnson and pay the judgment. The trial court found in Leonard's favor, but the State appealed, arguing that Officer Johnson's actions constituted a criminal act.The Indiana Supreme Court held that Leonard had shown that Officer Johnson’s conduct was noncriminal, and the State did not rebut that showing. The Court clarified that a party seeking indemnification under the Indiana public-employee indemnification statute must initially show that the loss occurred because of a noncriminal act or omission. The burden then shifts to the State to rebut that showing by producing evidence establishing a prima facie case of criminal conduct. In this case, Leonard met her burden of producing evidence that Officer Johnson’s conduct was noncriminal, and the State failed to establish a prima facie case that he had committed the crime of false informing. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's decision ordering the State to indemnify Officer Johnson and pay the federal judgment. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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In the early morning of January 26, 2019, Simranjit Singh was driving a truck on Interstate 80 in Cass County, Iowa, when he hit a cow that had wandered onto the road. Singh was injured and his truck was damaged. The cow, owned by defendant Michael McDermott, was killed. Singh sued McDermott for negligence, claiming that McDermott was negligent in letting his cow wander onto the highway.McDermott moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to show that he was negligent. The district court granted McDermott's motion and Singh appealed. The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, and Singh sought further review from the Supreme Court of Iowa.The Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the decisions of the lower courts, noting that the record did not contain sufficient evidence to support a finding of negligence by McDermott. The court clarified that the mere presence of a cow on the highway, without more, does not establish negligence on the part of the cow's owner. The court explained that the common-law duty of cattle owners is a "duty of ordinary care," such as the care an "ordinarily prudent and careful farmer exercises under like circumstances" to keep cows out of the highway.In this case, the court found no direct or circumstantial evidence of negligence on the part of McDermott, noting that there was no evidence of any unmended defects in his fence or that he failed to secure a gate. Singh's contention that the mere presence of the cow on the highway constituted "prima facie evidence" of negligence was rejected as this regime was a product of a now-repealed statute. The court also rejected Singh's reliance on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, finding that there was no evidence that a cow would not have escaped "in the ordinary course of things" if McDermott had used reasonable care. View "Singh v. McDermott" on Justia Law

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The case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit involved Allen Thomas Bloodworth, II, a business owner who operated two towing businesses in Kansas City. Bloodworth alleged that the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and fourteen officers of the Kansas City Police Department conspired to stop him from running his businesses and shut down his ability to conduct business in Kansas City. He brought 17 state and federal claims, including defamation, tortious interference with contract and business expectancy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training, supervision, or retention. He also alleged Fourth Amendment violations for an unlawful warrant search and seizure of his residence and business, the shooting of his dog during the search, and the seizure of business records.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the ruling. The appellate court concluded that Bloodworth failed to link the specific conduct of individual defendants to the alleged constitutional violations, and his claims were based on general assertions mostly. It also ruled that Bloodworth failed to establish that the defendants' conduct was extreme and outrageous to support his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court further found that Bloodworth failed to establish a constitutional violation resulting from the official policy, unlawful practice, custom, or failure to properly train, retain, supervise, or discipline the police officers. Therefore, there was no basis for municipal liability against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. View "Bloodworth v. Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's partial denial of Defendant's motion for summary judgment in this dog bite case, holding that a genuine issue of material fact existed, precluding summary judgment.Defendant in this case was a deputy sheriff and K-9 handler who hosted a cookout for friends at his home. Plaintiff, who attended the cookout, was bitten by Defendant's canine partner, Xyrem. Plaintiff brought suit, asserting a common-law negligence claim and a claim under Ohio Rev. Code 955.28, which imposes strict liability for injuries caused by a dog in certain situations. The trial court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment in part, determining that Defendant was immune from liability under section 955.28(B). Defendant appealed the denial of summary judgment on the negligence claim. The court of appeals reversed, holding that, as a matter of law, Defendant was not manifestly acting outside the scope of his employment or official responsibilities during the evening of the dog bite. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that reasonable minds could differ regarding whether Defendant was manifestly acting outside the scope of his employment during the events leading up to Plaintiff's injury. View "Harris v. Hilderbrand" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court, asking whether a violation of Washington’s animal protection laws could establish a claim for a public nuisance, absent an indication that the legislature so intended and absent a showing that the violation interfered with the use and enjoyment of property or was injurious to public health and safety. The case was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) against the Olympic Game Farm Inc. (OGF). ALDF argued OGF violated Washington’s wildlife laws, animal cruelty laws, and both the Washington and federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, thus creating a public nuisance. OGF argued ALDF had no valid legal claim for public nuisance because ALDF did not demonstrate any wildlife statutes have been violated. Even if ALDF could prove such a violation, the Washington Supreme Court determined the state legislature has not named such violations a nuisance nor has ALDF demonstrated that a property interference or threat to public health and safety has occurred. Based on Washington case law and statutory definitions of public nuisance, and the lack of any indication in case law or statute that violation of animal protection laws has been declared a nuisance, the Supreme Court answered the federal court's certified question in the negative. View "Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Olympic Game Farm, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the final determination of the Maryland Department of the Environment to reissue with revisions a general discharge permit to Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs), holding that the Department's final determination was reasonable and complied with applicable water quality standards.The most recent iteration of the general discharge permit the Department issued to AFOs was finalized by the Department pursuant to certain statutory requirements requiring the Department to review and issue or reissue water pollution control permits once every five years. The circuit court vacated the permit and remanded the matter with instructions to incorporate certain water quality standards into the permit. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court, holding (1) the Department's AFO general discharge permit framework was reasonable and consistent with federal and state law; and (2) the Department's decision to evaluate each AFO individually and to require appropriately-tailored best-management practices to control the emissions where they presented a risk of discharge was reasonable and not an abuse of discretion. View "Dep't of Environment v. Assateague Coastal Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court finding that the city council of the City of Fremont (Council) and the City of Fremont (City) lacked reasonable sufficient evidence to terminate a contract with the Dodge County Humane Society for animal control, holding that the district court lacked petition in error jurisdiction to review the decision.At a regularly scheduled meeting, the Council approved a motion authorizing Fremont's mayor to terminate the contract for animal control. The Humane Society later filed a petition in error alleging that the Council and the City had no cause to terminate the contract. Thereafter, the district court entered a temporary injunction / temporary restraining order in favor of the Humane Society. The County and City moved to dismiss, asserting that the Council's decision to authorize the mayor to send a letter was not an action that could support a petition in error. The district court sustained the petition in error and ordered the contract to be reinstated. The Supreme Court vacated the order below, holding (1) the Council did not exercise a judicial or quasi-judicial function in voting on the motion to send the disputed letter to the Humane Society; and (2) therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction to review this action. View "Dodge County Humane Society v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint seeking to recover damages for the emotional distress they allegedly suffered when their dogs died after becoming entangled in Defendant's snares, holding that there was no error.In his motion for summary judgment, Defendant asserted that Plaintiffs' emotional distress were not compensable because dogs are considered property. The district court granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Wyoming law, dogs are property; (2) while Plaintiffs might be entitled to emotional damages for their own injuries, the impact rule did not extend their recovery to emotional damages caused by the dogs' death; and (3) Plaintiffs' argument that recovery for emotional distress damages should be allowed when animate property is negligently harmed is best made to the legislature. View "Cardenas v. Swanson" on Justia Law