Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Plaintiff filed suit against Foster Farms for its allegedly misleading labels and against American Humane for its allegedly negligent certification. The Court of Appeal concluded that it need not decide whether there are triable issues of fact that would defeat summary judgment. Rather, the court concluded that plaintiff has not pleaded a viable cause of action against either defendant. The court concluded that plaintiff's claims against Foster Farms are barred by federal preemption. In this case, plaintiff's direct causes of action against Foster Farms is based on the premise that its labels' inclusion of the American Humane Certified logo was itself misleading, because the chicken was not treated in a manner that an objectively reasonable consumer would consider humane. The court concluded that these causes of action are barred by the doctrine of federal preemption, based on the express preemption clause of the Poultry and Poultry Products Inspection Act. The court also concluded that the negligent certification claim against American Humane is not viable in the absence of physical injury. View "Leining v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Andrew Pankey (Andrew) filed a products liability claim against Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., after his son Aidan contracted a rare bacterial infection from a rat purchased at Petco. Aidan later died as a result of complications related to his infection. Andrew alleged, among other things, that Petco was strictly liable for injuries resulting from the sale of the pet rat, which he argued was a product for purposes of strict products liability. The trial court instructed the jury on negligence under ordinary negligence and negligent failure-to-warn theories, as well as three theories of strict products liability: (1) failure to warn, (2) manufacturing defect, and (3) design defect under a risk-benefit test. The jury returned verdicts in favor of Petco. On appeal, Andrew contended the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on an alternative strict liability design defect theory, the "consumer expectations test." He argued there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have concluded the pet rat purchased from Petco failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding a live pet animal sold in its unaltered state was not a product subject to the design defect consumer expectations theory of strict products liability. The Court therefore did not reach a conclusion regarding applicability of the consumer expectations test or the prejudicial effect of its exclusion. View "Pankey v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sturgell was a commercial fisher for 48 years. He held Dungeness crab permits in Washington, Oregon, and California. During the 2012–2013 season, Sturgell landed 203,045 pounds of crab in California. Sturgell’s taking of crab in California before the delayed opening of the Oregon crab fishery meant he was required to wait until January 30, 2013, before taking, possessing, or landing that crab in Oregon. He could take crab in Washington on January 24. On January 29, Sturgell arrived in Astoria, Oregon to offload the crabs he had taken in Washington. He began to offload crabs at 6:15 p.m and offloaded 38,295 pounds; the balance of the 64,694 total offload was completed by 4:00 a.m. on January 30. A “Receiving Ticket,” indicating the “date of landing” as January 29, 2013, was signed by Sturgell and the buyer. The buyer later stated that this was “in error” as the ticket was actually written, “between 4[:00] a.m. and 5[:00] a.m. on January 30, 2013, after the offload was completed.” Pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 8043, a landing receipt “shall be completed at the time of the receipt, purchase, or transfer of fish.” Sturgell’s permit was revoked. The trial court ordered the permit reinstated. The court of appeal dismissed the agency’s appeal as moot, with instructions that the trial court vacate its decision. Sturgill had retired and sold his permit for over $500,000. The Department approved the transfer. View "Sturgell v. Department of Fish and Wildlife" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged a Monterey County ordinance limiting to four the number of roosters that can be kept on a property without a permit. A permit application must include a plan describing the “method and frequency of manure and other solid waste removal,” and “such other information that the Animal Control Officer may deem necessary.” A permit cannot be issued to anyone who has a criminal conviction for illegal cockfighting or other crime of animal cruelty. The ordinance includes standards, such as maintaining structurally sound pens that protect roosters from cold and are properly cleaned and ventilated and includes exemptions for poultry operations; members of a recognized organization that promotes the breeding of poultry for show or sale; minors who keep roosters for an educational purpose; and minors who keep roosters for a Future Farmers of America project or 4-H project. The court of appeal upheld the ordinance, rejecting arguments that it takes property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment; infringes on Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce; violates the Equal Protection Clause; is a prohibited bill of attainder; and violates the rights to privacy and to possess property guaranteed by the California Constitution. View "Perez v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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Assembly Bill 96, which imposed tough new restrictions on the sale and importation of ivory and rhinoceros horn, was not unconstitutionally vague. Assembly Bill 96 took effect July 1, 2016 as Fish & Game Code section 2022.The Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment in favor of the Department in an action filed by the Institute, seeking to block implementation of the law. The court held that the exception for activities authorized by the federal government was not vague on its face, because federal statutes and other provisions that might overlap with section 2022 could be ascertained. The court also held that the Institute improperly raised federal preemption, and its challenges to exceptions for antique and musical instruments was primarily hypothetical. View "Ivory Education Institute v. Department of Fish & Wildlife" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's petition for writ of administrative mandate after the county planning commission and board of supervisors denied her application for a conditional use permit (CUP) to keep up to five tigers on her property. The court held that substantial evidence supported the Board's findings that the project was not compatible with the planned uses in the general area and the project was detrimental to the public interest, health, safety or welfare. In this case, tigers did not belong in a residential area and there was more than ample evidence to support a finding that plaintiff's tigers posed a danger to the public. View "Hauser v. Ventura County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's petition for writ of administrative mandate after the county planning commission and board of supervisors denied her application for a conditional use permit (CUP) to keep up to five tigers on her property. The court held that substantial evidence supported the Board's findings that the project was not compatible with the planned uses in the general area and the project was detrimental to the public interest, health, safety or welfare. In this case, tigers did not belong in a residential area and there was more than ample evidence to support a finding that plaintiff's tigers posed a danger to the public. View "Hauser v. Ventura County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits arbitrary discrimination in public accommodations with respect to trained service dogs, but not to service-dogs-in-training. The Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action alleging violation of the Unruh Act, violation of the Disabled Persons Act, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff claimed that Fortune, the owner and operator of a chain of Seafood City markets, illegally denied him service when he tried to enter two different stores with his service dog. The court held that defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the Unruh Act claim because plaintiff did not offer any evidence, let alone substantial evidence, that his dog was a fully trained service animal at the time. The court also held that "persons authorized to train service dogs" under the DPA means any person who is credentialed to do so by virtue of their education or experience, and plaintiff failed to make this showing. Finally, defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the emotional distress claims because there was no evidence that defendants intended to cause plaintiff any emotional distress. View "Miller v. Fortune Commercial Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kathleen Swigart and defendant Carl Bruno participated in an organized endurance horseback riding event with approximately 47 other riders. Swigart was in the lead and had dismounted at a required checkpoint along the course. There was no dispute that Bruno's horse struck Swigart while she was standing on the ground, injuring her. Swigart sued Bruno, alleging causes of action for negligence, reckless or intentional misconduct, and having an animal with a dangerous propensity. The trial court granted Bruno's motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals concluded the doctrine of primary assumption of risk barred Swigart's cause of action for negligence, and that Swigart did not meet her burden of establishing a genuine issue of material fact as to Bruno's alleged recklessness or Bruno's horse's alleged propensity for danger. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Swigart v. Bruno" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Aristea Hupp (Aristea) appealed after the trial court granted defendants Solera Oak Valley Greens Association and City of Beaumont Animal Control Officer Jack Huntsman’s ex parte application to dismiss Aristea’s first amended complaint (FAC) as a vexatious litigant. Aristea argued: (1) the trial court’s order granting Solera’s ex parte application to dismiss deprived her of her due process rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard; (2) Solera waived its vexatious litigant defense by not raising it in its first responsive pleading; and (3) under the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (Davis-Stirling Act), she was authorized to seek recovery of damages sustained by her son, Paul Hupp (Paul), from violations of Solera’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). In 2014, Paul was declared a vexatious litigant. In 2015, Aristea and Paul filed a complaint against Solera over enforcing a community rule regarding muzzling of Pit Bulls on properties within the Solera community. The Hupps walked their dogs through the community without a muzzle. The Hupps argued the rule was only applied to the Hupps, and that Solera could not single out any one breed. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal as to all claims alleged in the FAC which were brought by or for the benefit of Paul, on the ground he has been declared a vexatious litigant. Because Aristea had not been declared a vexatious litigant, the judgment of dismissal was reversed as to all claims in the FAC that were solely personal to Aristea. View "Hupp v. Solera Oak Valley Greens Assn." on Justia Law