Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Grossens own but do not live on, Parcel A, adjacent to Parcel B, leased by Frank. The parcels are separated by a common fence. Frank has used Parcel B for pasturing cattle since 2009 and, under his lease is responsible for maintaining the fences on the parcel. When Frank repaired the fence he did not notify the Grossens. In 2011, Frank’s cattle escaped to a nearby road, where Raab collided with a cow. Raab sued, citing the Animals Running Act. Frank filed a third-party complaint against the Grossens under the Contribution Act, citing the Fence Act, negligence, and breach of contract. The cow that injured Raab escaped through a portion of the fence the Grossens were obligated to maintain under a contract between previous owners. The circuit court approved a $225,000 settlement agreement between Raab and Frank; determined that the Animals Running Act barred any contribution from nonowners or nonkeepers of livestock and that Frank’s failure to notify the Grossens of known deficiencies in the fence barred liability under the Fence Act; and held that a breach of the fence contract could not create that liability to Raab, so the contract could not be the basis for contribution. The appellate court reversed in part.The Illinois Supreme Court held that common law does not provide a basis to hold a nonowner or nonkeeper of livestock liable in tort for damage caused by a neighbor’s animals; the Animals Running Act is not a source of a duty for nonowners and nonkeepers to restrain neighboring cattle. Since Frank has not otherwise established potential tort liability, breach of contract does not give rise to liability under the Contribution Act. View "Raab v. Frank" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Maria Matta-Troncoso and her husband, Mario Matta (“the Mattas”), sued Michael and Lakeisha Thornton, alleging that the Thorntons were liable under OCGA 51-2-71 for injuries that Matta-Troncoso sustained when the Thorntons’ dogs attacked her as she was walking her own dogs approximately two blocks away from the Thorntons’ rental house. The Mattas later amended their complaint by adding Gregory Tyner, the Thorntons’ landlord, alleging that he was liable under OCGA 44-7-142 for failing to keep the rental property in repair. Specifically, they alleged that Tyner failed to repair a broken gate latch that allowed the Thorntons’ dogs to escape the property and attack Matta-Troncoso. Tyner moved for summary judgment, and the trial court determined that although Tyner breached his duty to keep the premises in repair by failing to repair the broken gate latch, summary judgment was nevertheless warranted in his favor because the Mattas made no showing that the Thorntons’ dogs had ever displayed vicious propensities or that Tyner had knowledge of such tendencies. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling, concluding the trial court erred in its analysis of whether Tyner had knowledge of the dogs’ vicious propensities. Citing OCGA 51-2-7, the Court of Appeals reasoned that because there was evidence that the dogs were unleashed in violation of a local ordinance, the Mattas were not required to produce evidence that “Tyner [was] aware of the dogs’ vicious propensities.” Furthermore, the appellate court concluded Tyner could be liable under OCGA 44-7-14 because that statute did not limit a landlord’s liability to injuries occurring on a leased premises, and that there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Matta-Troncoso’s injuries “arose from” Tyner’s failure to repair the gate latch. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Tyner’s petition for certiorari to address a single question: Did the Court of Appeals err by reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Tyner? The Court answered that question in the affirmative, and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals. The Court determined there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Tyner’s failure to repair the gate latch caused Matta-Troncoso’s injuries; summary judgment in Tyner’s favor was appropriate. View "Tyner v. Matta-Tronscoso" on Justia Law

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Teresa Gilland petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to grant her motion to dismiss claims filed against her by Diane McCain on the basis of state-agent immunity. McCain, a resident of Jasper, Alabama, was attacked and bitten by a German Shepherd owned by her neighbor, Robert Barton. McCain sued Barton; the City of Jasper ("the City"); Sonny Posey, then mayor of the City; Joe Matthews, director of the City's Public Works Department; Russell Smallwood, superintendent of the City's Street Department; and Gilland, an animal-control officer employed by the City. McCain raised negligence and wantonness claims against Gilland for Gilland's alleged breach of "a duty to ... enforce animal control policies designed to protect the public from dogs running at large." The Alabama Supreme Court determined Gilland demonstrated that she had a clear legal right to the dismissal of McCain's claims against her based on State-agent immunity. The Court therefore granted the petition and issued the writ directing the trial court to dismiss Gilland from the case. View "Ex parte Teresa Gilland." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this case alleging that Defendants breached their duties under the Farm Animals Activity Act by failing to make a reasonable inquiry into Plaintiff’s ability to manage a horse named Flash before letting her ride the horse, holding that Defendants were not liable under the statute.When Plaintiff visited a stable owned by Defendants to test-ride horses for sale she was injured when she was thrown by Flash. Plaintiff sought compensation for her injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Court of Appeals revered, finding that Defendants had a duty to make a reasonable and prudent inquiry into Plaintiff’s ability to manage flash before letting her ride the horse and that a genuine issue of fact existed regarding Plaintiffs allegation that defendants caused Plaintiff’s injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendants reasonably determined that Flash was suitable for Plaintiff to ride based upon Plaintiff's representations; and (2) no genuine issue of material fact existed as to Defendants’ liability under the statute. View "Daugherty v. Tabor" on Justia Law

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Krier operates a Wisconsin trail-riding facility. Dilley reserved a ride, informing Krier that she had no horseback-riding experience. Dilley was matched with Blue, Krier’s most docile horse. Dilley received no instruction from Krier or his employee, Kremsreiter; neither adjusted the stirrups nor provided a helmet. Kremsreiter rode in front of Dilley. During the ride, Dilley stated that she did not have the reins. Kremsreiter responded, “Don’t worry; this horse knows where it wants [to] go,” and never looked back. Blue attempted to pass Kremsreiter’s horse, which kicked, prompting Blue to rear up. Dilley fell, sustaining a head injury, fractured ribs and vertebra, and a punctured lung. The judge granted the defendants summary judgment. Wisconsin law confers immunity on the sponsors and participants in equine activities for injuries that result from “an inherent risk of equine activities,” including any participant’s negligence. Brown took a riding lesson at a Wisconsin indoor facility, using her own horse. The instructor allowed a second horse and rider to enter the arena, knowing that the second horse was “high spirited” and required a very experienced rider. The instructor directed the rider of the second horse to jump a fence. The horse sped off, leaping out of control, and collided with Brown’s horse. Brown was thrown and sustained leg fractures. Her case was dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed both defense judgments. Dilley’s claims fail because a trail operator’s negligence is an “inherent risk of equine activities” under the statute; no exception applies. The operators reasonably assessed Dilley’s abilities; they did not act in willful or wanton disregard for her safety; the tack they provided was not faulty. Because Brown rode her own horse, an exception that applies when the defendant provides a horse is unavailable. View "Dilley v. Holiday Acres Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Anthony Franciosa, as father and next friend of Vaneesa Franciosa, appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment filed by the defendants, Jessica Elliott and Hidden Pond Farm, Inc. a/k/a Hidden Pond Farm, and denying plaintiff’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment. The trial court ruled that, pursuant to RSA 508:19 (2010), defendants were entitled to immunity from liability for the injuries Vaneesa sustained in a horseback riding accident. Vaneesa was thirteen at the time of the accident; she had been riding horses for eight years and taking weekly riding lessons from Elliott, an expert equestrian, for almost two years. Approximately once a week, Vaneesa went on a "free ride," one that did not involve a lesson. On free rides, Elliott was not always present, and she rode unsupervised. After riding for approximately 30 minutes, Vaneesa fell off her horse trying to dismount. She was seriously injured when the horse stepped on Vaneesa. In its order, the trial court concluded that Vaneesa’s injuries resulted from the “inherent risks of equine activities.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed and affirmed the superior court order. View "Franciosa v. Hidden Pond Farm, Inc." on Justia Law

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The humans in the events giving rise to this lawsuit were related by blood or marriage: Stephen Boswell was married to Karena Boswell; Karena is Mary Steele’s daughter; Amber was Mary Steele’s granddaughter and owned a Scottish terrier named Zoey. Amber and Zoey lived in Mary’s home. Stephen and Karena Boswell appealed a judgment entered in favor of Amber Steele and the Estate of Mary Steele. The Boswells sought to recover damages for injuries suffered by Stephen after he was bitten by Zoey. Before the case was submitted to the jury, the district court ruled that all of the Boswells’ claims sounded in negligence and so instructed the jury, rejecting the Boswells’ proposed jury instructions on common law and statutory strict liability. The jury found that the Steeles were not negligent and the district court entered judgment consistent with that verdict. The Idaho Supreme Court found that the Boswells were entitled to have the jury instructed on theories other than negligence. The instructions given by the trial court did not accurately convey the elements of a common law dog bite case in Idaho, nor did they contemplate a cause of action arising from the Pocatello Municipal Code. As such, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Boswell v. Steele" on Justia Law

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Animal Control Officer Laurie Deus responded to a report of a vicious dog. When she arrived on scene, a black and white pit bull, later identified as “Bo,” aggressively charged anyone who got near him. Bo was declared aggressive, and later dangerous. Mark and Robyn Munkhoffs’ son Sam Munkhoff (“Sam”) was Bo’s owner, and Bo was kept on the Munkoff’s property. Months later, Officer Deus received a report of a dog bite that occurred near the Munkhoffs’ home. The owner of the dog was identified as Sam. Sam was cited for having an animal running at large, an animal attacking, biting or chasing, and Bo was declared dangerous. The responding animal control officer cited Mark too, whose dog Dexter was also running at large. Mark told the officer that “Sam is absolutely not allowed to move back in nor is he allowed to bring Bo back even for a visit.” Officers tried to locate Sam and Bo; Mark told officers on the phone that “if that dog shows up [I] will shoot it.” Bo bit the Munkoffs’ neighbor, Klaus Kummerling. The Kummerlings filed a complaint, alleging claims for negligence, gross negligence, outrage, and nuisance against the City of Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Ron Clark, the Munkhoffs, and Sam. The Kummerlings did not allege in their complaint that the Munkhoffs were vicariously liable for Sam’s conduct. The district court dismissed the claims against the City and Chief Clark. The Munkhoffs filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted as to all claims except the claim for negligence. Sam, who represented himself, did not join in the Munkhoffs’ summary judgment motion. This case was tried to a jury, and the jury returned a special verdict, finding that the Munkhoffs and their son Sam were negligent, negligent per se, and that their negligence was the actual and proximate cause of Kummerling’s injuries. The jury allocated fault and calculated damages. Kummerling was awarded $16,603.00 in economic damages and $185,000.00 in non-economic damages. The Munkhoffs moved for a new trial pursuant to Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A), (F), and (G), for remittitur pursuant to Idaho Code section 6-807 and Rule 59.1, and for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(3). The district court denied the motions, and a judgment was entered on November 7, 2016. On December 14, 2016, the Munkhoffs timely appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court’s decision and affirmed. View "Litke v. Munkhoff" on Justia Law

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The language of Ky. Rev. Stat. 258.235(4) imposes strict liability upon the owner of a dog that attacks and injures a person.Plaintiff sued Defendant after Defendant’s dogs attacked and injured her, relying on section 258.235(4). After the conclusion of the evidence, Plaintiff unsuccessfully requested instruction requiring an imposition of liability upon Defendant solely by showing Defendant’s ownership of the dogs that attacked her. The jury determined that Defendant was the owner of the dogs that caused injury to Plaintiff but that Defendant was not liable to Plaintiff. The Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that the jury instructions properly stated the law of a dog owner’s liability for injuries caused by his dog. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused when his dog attacks a person and that a plaintiff’s comparative negligence in a dog bite case may be considered in measuring the damages awarded to her. View "Maupin v. Tankersley" 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