Dangerous Dog: Related Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Roalstad v. City of Lafayette 363 P.3d 790 (Col. Ct. App. Div. III , 2015) The origins of this matter began when the City of Lafayette (City) charged Defendant/Appellant with violating its municipal ordinance regarding vicious animals. Defendant/Appellant requested a jury trial pursuant to C.R.S.A. § 16-10-109. The municipal court denied the request. Defendant/Appellant appealed the district court's dismissal of her C.R.C.P. 106 and declaratory judgment action in which she challenged the municipal court's denial of her request for a jury trial. The sole issue on appeal was whether the offense for which Defendant was charged under the City's ordinances was a “petty offense” under C.R.S.A. § 16-10-109, which would entitle her to a jury trial under that statute. Since the municipal ordinance imposed fines that met that definition and because it was not a crime at common law, the court concluded the offense met the definition of “petty offense;” Defendant/Appellant was therefore entitled to a jury trial in municipal court pursuant to C.R.S.A. § 16-10-109. Further, because the ordinance and the state Dangerous Dog law were counterparts and because the ordinance was criminal in nature, the vicious animal offense was not exempt from the “petty offense” definition. Accordingly, the district court’s order was reversed.
Roberts v. 219 South Atlantic Boulevard, Inc. 914 So.2d 1108 (Fla. 2005)

Defendant brought his dog to work with him as the nightclub's maintenance man. As plaintiff walked by defendant's truck, he was bitten by defendant's dog.  The plaintiff than sued the nightclub for damages due to the bite.  The court granted summary judgment to the defendants stating that the facts of the case did not meet the four prong test that was needed to hold an employer liable for injuries to a third party.

Robinson v. City of Bluefield 764 S.E.2d 740 (W. Va. Oct. 2, 2014) An Animal Control Officer responded to a complaint about two dogs at defendant's residence. While investigating the complaint at defendant's residence, the animal control officer was attacked by one of defendant's dogs. The officer sought medical treatment following the incident. The City of Bluefield subsequently brought charges against defendant in its municipal court, charging her with having a dangerous animal in violation of city ordinances. The municipal court ordered the dog killed. On appeal, the Circuit Court of Mercer County affirmed the municipal court's decision. Defendant then appealed the Circuit Court's decision arguing that that Circuit Court erred in concluding that the municipal court had the authority to order the destruction of her dog. After review, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia agreed with defendant and found that under the plain language of W.Va.Code § 19–20–20, the City of Bluefield was required to set forth satisfactory proof that defendant’s dog was “vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons” before a circuit court or a magistrate, not a municipal court. The court therefore found that ordinance was void to the extent that it allowed a municipal court to order the destruction of the dog. The circuit court's order affirming the municipal court's order to kill Ms. Robinson's dog was therefore reversed. Justice Loughry dissents.
Rogers v. State 760 S.W.2d 669 (Tex. App. 1988).

Dog fighting case. Where the dog fighting area was in an open section of woods near the defendant's home, police officers were not required to obtain a search warrant before entering the defendant's property because of the "open fields" doctrine.

Roos v. Loeser 183 P. 204 (Cal.App.1.Dist.,1919)

This is an action for damages alleged to have been sustained by plaintiff by reason of the killing of her dog, of the variety known as Pomeranian, by an Airedale belonging to the defendant. In 1919, a California court determined damages to be limited to the veterinary expenses connected with the injury to the animal. In the opinion, the court lovingly discusses the value of the animal. Notwithstanding these words of praise for the small animal, the court decided that the value was limited to the fair market value and related expenses.

Rowlette v. Paul 466 S.E.2d 37 (Ga. 1995) This Georgia case involved a dog bite to a person who went to went to the Pauls' house in order to verify and update information for the Oglethorpe County Tax Assessor's Office.  The court held that in the absence of any evidence showing that the owners of a dog had knowledge, prior to a mauling incident, that their dog had ever bitten another human being, the owners of the dog were not liable to the victim even though the dog's presence on the premises where the incident occurred was in violation of the county leash law.  In order to support an action for damages under OCGA § 51-2-7, it is necessary to show that the dog was vicious or dangerous and that the owner had knowledge of this fact.
Ruffin v. Wood 95 A.D.3d 1290 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.)

While the plaintiff was tending her garden, the defendant's dog jumped on a chain-linked fence that separated the plaintiff's and defendant's property. Startled, the plaintiff fell and injured herself. As a result of the incident, the plaintiff brought a personal injury suit against the defendant. Finding the dog had no vicious propensities, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant; the plaintiff then appealed and lost.

Russell v. Rivera 780 N.Y.S.2d 699

Passerby sued dog owner for bitten finger.  Held:  because dog had shown no previous vicious propensities, the owner is not strictly liable, and, the owner was not negligent.  Reversed.

Salinas v. Martin 166 Cal.App.4th 404

Construction worker brought negligence action against homeowner for injuries sustained by another contractor's pit-bull dog, after homeowner had given the contractor permission to allow the dog to run loose on homeowner's property. The Court of Appeal, First District, Division 1, California, held that a landlord does not generally owe a duty to protect third parties from injuries by his or her tenant's dangerous dog without actual knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities and ability to prevent or control the harm. However, a homeowner, who maintains possession of and control over the premises, and thus is not acting as a landlord, is not required to have actual knowledge of a dog's dangerous propensities to owe a duty of care to his or her invitees.  

Sarno v. Kelly 78 A.D.3d 1157 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.. 2010)

A dog bite victim sought damages against absentee landlords after the tenant's bull mastiff dog bit him in right thigh. The deposition testimony of one landlord indicated that he visited the rental house approximately once per month to collect rent and check on the house in general, and only on two of those occasions did he see the dog. During one of these visits, he petted the dog without incident. Thus, the landlord established that he neither knew nor should have known that the dog had vicious propensities, and that he did not have sufficient control over the premises to allow him to remove or confine the dog.

Savory v. Hensick 143 S.W.3d 712 (Mo. 2004)

Contractor brought a premises liability action against homeowners after falling over their dog.  Contractor was descending from a ladder while working on homeowners' premises and stepped on the dog at the base of the ladder.  The trial court held in favor of the contractor because the homeowners' dog made the yard foreseeably dangerous and the appellate court affirmed. 

Sawh v. City of Lino Lakes 823 N.W.2d 627 (Minn.,2012)

A city ordered a dog to be destroyed after three separate biting incidents. Upon the owner’s appeal of the city’s determinations, the appeals court reversed the city’s decision to destroy the dog because the city had not allowed the owner an opportunity to challenge the “potentially dangerous” determination. The appeals court (800 N.W.2d 663 (Minn.App.,2011) held the city had therefore violated the owner’s procedural due process rights. Upon review by the Supreme Court of Minnesota, however, the court held that the owner’s procedural due process rights were not violated because the “potentially dangerous” determination did not deprive the owner of a property interest and because the city satisfied the basic requirements of procedural due process. Additionally, the court found that the dangerous dog and the destruction determinations were not arbitrary or capricious. The court therefore reversed the decision of the court of appeals, upheld the city's “dangerous dog” determination, and affirmed the city's order of destruction.

Sawh v. City of Lino Lakes 800 N.W.2d 663 (Minn.App.,2011)

The city council ordered the destruction of a dog after finding it to be a dangerous animal and the owner appealed. The Court of Appeals held that procedural due process required that the owner should have been given a meaningful opportunity to contest the declaration of the dog as a “potentially dangerous animal” before it was declared a “dangerous animal” under the city ordinance.

Scott v. Donkel 671 So.2d 741 (Ala.Civ.App.,1995)

In this Alabama case, there was an injury to a non-tenant child by a dog bite, and the defendant was a landlord.  The attack occurred off the rented premises in the public street.    The action was based upon negligence, that is, a failure to protect against a dangerous condition.   The key to such a claim is the knowledge of the landlord. Plaintiff presented no evidence of the landlord being aware of the dog let alone that he knew of its vicious propensity.   The court did not find a duty to inspect the premises and discover this information.  The court did not reach the point that the attack occurred off the premises.  The granting of the motion for summary judgment for the landlord was upheld.

SEIDNER v. DILL 206 N.E.2d 636 (Ind.App. 1965)

Charles Dill, appellee, brought this action in the Municipal Court of Marion County, Indiana, therein alleging that the defendant-appellant, Harold Seidner, maliciously and intentionally shot and killed plaintiff's dog. The case essentially involved a companion animal that was shot and killed by the defendant neighbor who alleged that the dog was after his livestock. A statute in Indiana provided that a person was authorized to kill a dog “known” for “roaming” that harmed or threatened to harm the livestock. A verdict of six hundred dollars for the wrongful killing of the dog was affirmed. This case, however, was subsequently overruled  by Puckett v. Miller , 178 Ind. App. 174 (Ind. App. Ct. 1978).

Shelvey v. Bicknell 1996CarswellBC1131

Both plaintiff (appellant) Shelvey and the defendant (respondent) dog owners were guests of an unnamed third party at that party's beach cabin, where the defendants left their Rottweiler unrestrained on the cabin's deck overnight. The friendly dog jumped over the deck railing to follow the plaintiff to the beach where she was walking; the large, energetic dog bumped her legs while playfully chasing a seagull, knocking her down and leaving her unconscious. The dog had previously knocked its owner and a child down at one time due to its large size and weight. A trial judge earlier found that the defendant owners were not liable to the plaintiff in negligence as the freak accident was not reasonably foreseeable; the Court of Appeal concurred, finding no negligence. Scienter was not argued or discussed at either level.

Sinclair v. Okata 874 F. Supp. 1051 (D.Alaska,1994)

Defendants are able to present a genuine question of fact regarding whether they were on notice of their dog's vicious propensity given their characterization of the four prior biting incidents as "behavioral responses common to all dogs."  Defendants' expert concluded that each time, Anchor's responses were "natural" or instinctive.  Plaintiffs offer no evidence, through expert testimony or otherwise, to refute the opinion of defendants' expert. 

Sligar v. Odell 233 P.3d 914 (Wash.App. Div. 1, 2010)

In this Washington case, plaintiff Sligar was bitten on the finger by the Odells' dog after Sligar's finger protruded through a hole in the six-foot high chain link fence that separated their two properties. The court found the dispositive question was whether, pursuant to RCW 16.08.040 and .050 (a law that defines when entry onto the property of the dog owner is for a lawful purpose) Sligar's finger was “lawfully in or on ... the property of the” Odells at the time of the dog bite. The court found that the statute provides that consent may not be presumed where the property is fenced. Concerning the common law negligence claim, Sligar contends that the Odells were negligent in failing to protect her from harm because they failed to erect a solid fence on the property boundary until after the bite occurred. However, the court had previously found that it is not unreasonable to keep a dog in a fenced backyard where the dog has not shown any dangerous propensities.

Smegal v. Gettys 48 So.3d 431 (La.App. 1 Cir., 2010)

Plaintiff Steven Smegal appeals a judgment that found him 50% at fault in a dog bite case. The incident occurred after the dog owned by Smegal's neighbor (Gettys) ran into the street and was hit by a school bus. Smegal approached the injured dog too closely and was bitten on his ankle. The Court of Appeal, First Circuit affirmed the lower court's finding. The court held that Smegal's actions did not constitute provocation where the dog's owners were also approaching the injured dog in an "equally provocative" manner. As to allocation of fault, the court found that while it was Gettys' failure to restrain the dog that was the ultimate cause of the accident, Smegal chose to approach the injured dog despite his training and knowledge as a police officer. Thus, this set of facts supported the trial court's allocation of comparative fault.

Smith v. City of New York 889 N.Y.S.2d 187 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept.,2009)

This New York appeal reversed the lower court's judgment finding Officer Smith strictly liable for dog-bite injuries sustained by infant plaintiffs. The court found that, in the limited time the officer spent with the dog, the dog acted friendly, playful, and "rambunctious." He did not see the dog growl or lunge at the plaintiff and her family, who were sitting in the precinct house. The testimony adduced at trial did not establish that Officer Smith knew or should have known of the dog's vicious propensities. Further, the court found the evidence was insufficient to show that Officer Smith owned the dog. Rather, he took temporary custody of the abandoned dog with the intention to transport him to the ASPCA, and the dog was in his possession for, at most, a few hours.

Smith v. Kopynec 119 So.3d 835 (La.App. 1 Cir.,2013)

The plaintiff appeals the lower court's dismissal of her claims against defendant-landowners and their insurers. The plaintiff was injured (for the second time) by the defendant-landowners' son's pitbull while walking past their home. While it was undisputed that the landowners did not own the dog, the issue was whether they had a duty to prevent the attack via "custodial liability." Here, the defendant-landowners asserted that they thought the son had gotten rid of the dog after it was confiscated and quarantined by animal control after it first attacked the plaintiff. Thus, this court found that defendant-landowners did not know of the dog's presence on their property and affirmed the trial court's order of summary judgment.

Spangler v. Stark County Dog Warden 999 N.E.2d 1247 (Ohio App. 5 Dist.,2013)

The appellant Robert T. Spangler appealed the decision of the Canton Municipal Court, Stark County that affirmed a dog warden's classification of his dog as "dangerous" under R.C. 955.11. While there are no cases on point that interpret this specific procedure on appeal, the court found the record did not reveal an abuse of discretion that would create a manifest miscarriage of justice. Even where there was potentially conflicting testimony whether appellant's dog actually bit the other dog's owner or whether it was caused by his own dog, the statute only requires a demonstration that the dog in question "caused injury" without provocation. Appellant's dog leaving the property lead to a "chain of events resulting in some sort of puncture injury" to the other dog owner's leg.

State of Florida v. Peters 534 So.2d 760 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1988). This is an appeal from an order of the county court invalidating a City of North Miami ordinance regulating the ownership of pit bull dogs.  The ordinance in question, City of North Miami Ordinance No. 422.5, regulates the ownership of pit bulls by requiring their owners to carry insurance or furnish other evidence of financial responsibility, register their pit bulls with the City, and confine the dogs indoors or in a locked pen.  The court dismissed defendants claims that the ordinance violates equal protection and due process, and that the ordinance's definition of a pit bull is on its face unconstitutionally vague.
State v. Ancona 991 A.2d 663 (Conn.App.,2010)

Defendant Michael Ancona appealed his conviction of permitting a dog to roam at large in violation of General Statutes § 22-364(a). The defendant claims that (1) the court improperly held him responsible as a keeper of a dog when the owner was present and known to the authorities, and (2) the state adduced insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction. The plain language of the statute § 22-364(a) states that an “owner or keeper” is prohibited from allowing a dog to roam on a public highway. Either the owner or keeper or both can be held liable for a violation of the statute. The court also found sufficient evidence that defendant was the keeper of the pit bull: the dog stayed at his house, he initially responded to the incident and tried to pull the dog away, and defendant yelled at the Officer Rogers that she was not to take "his dog."

State v. Blatt 235 W. Va. 489 (2015) The Circuit Court of Wayne County ordered that Tinkerbell, a female pit bull terrier, be destroyed pursuant to West Virginia's vicious dog statute, after she injured a neighbor child who was playing in the dog’s yard. The circuit court's decision ordering that Tinkerbell be destroyed relied on a presumption that pit bull dog breeds are inherently vicious. Because extensive debate exists over whether scientific evidence and social concerns justify breed-specific presumptions, the court concluded that courts may not, upon judicial notice, rely solely upon a breed-specific presumption in ordering the destruction of a dog pursuant to West Virginia's vicious dog statute. The adoption of breed-specific presumptions with regard to this statute is the prerogative of the Legislature, not the judiciary, the court stated. In the absence of a breed-specific presumption, the court determined that neither the remaining findings of fact in the circuit court's destruction order nor the facts presented in the record provided satisfactory proof that Tinkerbell must be euthanized. Consequently, the court reversed the circuit court's destruction order.
State v. Conte Slip Copy, 2007 WL 3257378 (Ohio App. 10 Dist.), 2007 -Ohio- 5924

Plaintiff-appellant, State of Ohio/City of Bexley, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Municipal Court dismissing the indictment against defendant-appellee, Joseph Conte. Appellant cited appellee for violating Bexley City Code 618.16(e), entitled “Dangerous and Vicious Animal.” Two days later, animal control then issued another citation against appellee for allowing his dog to run free without restraint in violation of Bexley City Code Section 618.16(e). In granting appellee's motion to dismiss, the trial court struck down a portion of Bexley City Code 618.16(e) as unconstitutional that provided that the owner of a vicious or dangerous animal shall not permit such animal to run at large. On appeal, this court found that the ordinance was not unconstitutional where the prosecution must prove at trial that the dog is vicious or dangerous as an element of the offense. 

State v. Cowan 814 N.E.2d 846 (Ohio 2004)

A neighbor of the owner of 3 dogs complained to the dog warden, alleging that two of the dogs bit her.  The dog warden then advised the owner that her dogs were dangerous and vicious and that she must follow the statutory rules for owning vicious dogs.  When she failed to follow those statutory rules, she was criminally prosecuted.  The Supreme Court of Ohio said that her constitutional right to due process was infringed because she had no chance before trial to challenge the designation of her dogs as vicious.

State v. Dan 20 P.3d 829 (Or. 2001)

This is an appeal of a circuit court decision in an aggravated animal abuse case.  A defendant was convicted in circuit court of aggravated animal abuse and other charges. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant's testimony that he loved his children more than the dog he shot was not evidence of his character, thus the evidence offered by the state in rebuttal (that the defendant assaulted his spouse) was not admissible and not harmless error by the trial court.

State v. Griffin 684 P.2d 32 (Or. 1984)

Appeal of a conviction in district court for cruelty to animals.  Defendant was convicted of cruelty to animals after having been found to have recklessly caused and allowed his dog to kill two cats, and he appealed. The Court of Appeals held that forfeiture of defendant's dog was an impermissible condition of probation.

State v. Hanson 89 P.3d 544 (Kansas, 2004)

Defendant's dogs were released by owner, resulting in their attack of a neighbor's dog and its subsequent death.  On appeal, the conviction was reversed for failure to show owner had knowledge of vicious propensity.

State v. Johnson 628 P.2d 789 (Or. 1981)

A defendant was convicted in district court of violating a city ordinance by keeping a vicious dog.  The Court of Appeals held that the word "trespasser" in the city ordinance was to be used in its ordinary context, that a child who rode his bicycle onto the defendant's driveway was a trespasser, that there were no issues of consent involved, and that the trespasser exception applied even to areas on the defendant's property where the dog was not under the owner's control.

State v. Lesoing-Dittoe 693 N.W.2d 261 (Neb. 2005)

A married couple owned a pet dog that had a history of injuring other dogs.  The married couple's dog injured a neighbors dog and, under a Nebraska Statute, was ordered to be destroyed.  The Supreme Court of Nebraska reversed the decision holding the penalty was unreasonable.

State v. Mallis 964 N.E.2d 1096 (Ohio App. 7 Dist.,2011)

Appellant, Cheryl Mallis, appealed the judgment of the Youngstown Municipal Court convicting her on one count of failure to confine a vicious dog and one count of failure to confine a dog. She was originally charged with two counts of violating the vicious-dog statute, R.C. 955.22(D)(1), and she moved to have those charges dismissed prior to trial. The motion was overruled, and appellant now challenges that ruling on appeal. The Court of Appeals held that the state could not prosecute the dog owner for failure to confine a vicious dog under the vicious dog statute since the statute had previously been declared by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional on its face and had not been amended or modified thereafter.

State v. Smith 685 A.2d 73 (N.J.Super.L. 1996)

This case involves the construction of a Hoboken, New Jersey dangerous dog ordinance in light of the state Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act.  The owner's dog that was the subject of this case was ordered by the municipal court to be destroyed after it bit a person on the hand.  In applying the relevant preemption test, the court found that the Act preempted any city ordinance purporting to cover same subject.  As noted by the court, it was the procedural conflict that caused the most concern.  Thus, because the procedural/jurisdictional defect in the ordinance was not cured, the municipal court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

State v. Taffet (unpublished) Not Reported in A.2d, 2010 WL 771954 (N.J.Super.A.D.)
The State of New Jersey, through the Borough of Haddonfield, appeals from the final judgment of the Law Division, which reversed the finding of the municipal court that defendant's dog is a potentially dangerous dog pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:19-23(a) as well as the imposition of certain measures to mitigate any future attacks. Defendant, a resident of Haddonfield, owns, breeds, and shows four Rhodesian Ridgebacks kept at his home in a residential neighborhood. The Superior Court concluded that the Law Division's did not properly defer to the trial court's credibility determinations and were not supported by sufficient credible evidence. The court found that the dog's dual attacks causing bodily injury to two individuals were undisputed, and along with evidence of more recent intimidating activity in the neighborhood, the municipal court could have reasonably concluded that the dog posed a more serious threat to cause bodily injury to another.
State v. Taylor 322 S.W.3d 722 (Tex.App.-Texarkana,2010)

Defendant was charged with a violation of Section 822.005(a)(2) of the Texas Health and Safety Code - the dog attack statute. The trial court dismissed the indictment stating that Section 822.005(a)(2) was unconstitutional because it fails to set forth any required culpable mental state. The Court of Appeals, however, found that the statute was constitutional because it does set forth a culpable mental state. "[B]oth the plain language of Sections 822.005(a)(2) and 822.042 impose upon the owner of a dangerous dog the duty to restrain or secure his or her animal."   

State v. West Slip Copy, 2007 WL 2963990 (Table) (Iowa App.)

In this Iowa case, the defendant, West, shot his neighbor's dogs after the dogs were seen running the perimeter of his deer-pen, agitating 15 of his deer in the process. Defendant was subsequently convicted of two counts of animal abuse charges and fifth degree criminal mischief.  On appeal, West argued that the section 351.27 (a provision that allows a person to kill a dog caught in the act of worrying livestock) provides an absolute defense to the charges of animal abuse and that he had the right under the facts and this statute to summarily kill Piatak's dogs because they were worrying and chasing his deer. He also contended that the statute has no additional “reasonableness” requirement, and the trial court was incorrect to graft the “reasonably acting” standard from the animal abuse law. The appellate court agreed, finding that section 351.27 provides an absolute defense to a charge of animal abuse under section 717B.2.

Steagald v. Eason 797 S.E.2d 838 (2017)

In this case, Gary and Lori Steagald sued the Eason family, alleging that the Easons failed to keep their dog properly restrained and were therefore liable under OCGA § 51-2-7. Lori Steagald suffered injuries after the Easons dog attacked her while she was visiting the Easons home. The Easons filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that they had no reason to know that the dog was vicious or dangerous and therefore were not liable under the statute. Both the trial court and Court of Appeals affirmed the motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the lower court’s decision. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Georgia found that the Eason family was liable under the statute because they did have reason to believe that the dog could potentially be vicious or dangerous. The Court focused on the fact that the dog had previously “growled and snapped” at the Easons while being fed. The Court held that although the dog had never bit anyone prior to Lori Steagald, it was reasonable to assume that the dog could potentially bite and injure someone given the fact that it had a history of snapping and growling. As a result, the Court reversed the Easons motion for summary judgment and determined that the question of whether or not the Easons are liable under the statute is a question for the jury. 

Stennette v. Miller 316 Ga.App. 425, 729 S.E.2d 559 (Ga.App., 2012)

Plaintiff Stennette was providing in-home nursing care while she was bitten multiple times by Defendant Miller's dog. Stennette appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Miller in Stennette's personal injury action. This Court affirmed that decision because Stennette failed to provide adequate evidence showing triable issues on whether the dog had a vicious propensity and whether Miller knew of that propensity. However, the Court reversed the grant of summary judgment as to Miller on Stennette's claim that Miller negligently performed a voluntarily-undertaken duty to keep the dog away from her when she was at the house, because the evidence created genuine issues of material fact as to this claim.

Stolte v. Hammack 716 S.E.2d 796 (Ga. App., 2011)

After home owner’s roommate was attacked by a pit bull inside the home, the victim filed suit against owner under the vicious animal and the premises liability statutes. The Court of Appeals held that, because the roommate knew about the dog’s vicious propensity to the same extent as the owner, the owner was not liable. Plaintiff must present evidence that the owner had superior knowledge of the dog's temperament for the owner to be liable.

Swanson v. Tackling 335 Ga. App. 810 (2016) This is an interlocutory appeal by the dog owners (the Swansons) in a personal injury lawsuit for a dog bite. The court in this case overruled the lower court’s ruling that the defendant was not entitled to summary judgement after defendant’s dog bit a child but the dog had never shown a propensity to injure anyone prior to the incident. Plaintiff was suing defendant after defendant’s dog bit plaintiff’s child on the arm and head. Plaintiff argued that defendant is responsible for the injuries caused by the dog because the defendant neglected to properly restrain the dog. The court reversed the lower court’s decision and held in favor of defendant, stating that there was no evidence that was presented to indicate that defendant could have or should have known that the dog would act in this way towards the child. In order to prevail, the plaintiff needed to present evidence that the dog had acted in a similar way in the past.
Tarquinio v. City of Lakewood, Ohio (unpublished) Slip Copy, 2011 WL 4458165 (N.D.Ohio)

Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment from the court that Lakewood City Ordinance (“LCO”) 506.01, which bans pit bull dogs or those dogs with "appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of such breeds," unconstitutional under the Ohio Constitution Home Rule provisions. In this motion, plaintiffs argue that LCO 506 conflicts with and impermissibly expands the provisions of Ohio Revised Code § 955.22. The court found that while § 955.22 outlines requirements that must be met by a person who houses vicious dogs, including all pit bulls, it does not explicitly permit pit bulls. The court found that the General Assembly intended to allow municipalities to regulate the possession of pit bulls.

Terral v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co. 892 So.2d 732 (La.,2005)

A motorcyclist hit a dog wandering on the road and sued the defendant under strict liability theory. The court found that the defendant was strictly liable because he owned the dog in fact. Although the dog was originally a stray, the court upheld a finding of ownership because the defendant regularly fed the dog and harbored it on his property.  

Thurber v. Apmann 91 A.D.3d 1257 (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept., 2012)

In 2007, the plaintiff and defendant were walking their respective dogs when one of defendant's two dogs, a retired K-9 dog, attacked the plaintiff's dog. Plaintiff sued defendant for damages she received as a result. While each dog did received "handler protection" training (where a K-9 dog is trained to react to an aggressive attack on defendant while on duty), that situation had never arisen because the dogs acted in passive roles as explosive detection dogs. Plaintiff countered that the severity of the attack coupled with the dogs' breed and formal police training should have put defendant on notice of the dogs' vicious propensities. In affirming the summary judgment, this court found that the formal police training was not evidence of viciousness and there was no support to plaintiff's assertion that defendant kept the dogs as "guard dogs."

Tighe v. N. Shore Animal League Am. 36 N.Y.S.3d 500 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016)

In this New York case, the defendant appeals denial of its motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed an action to recover damages for personal injuries after the dog she adopted from defendant-North Shore Animal League America bit plaintiff's face causing severe personal injuries. Plaintiff alleges causes of action that include negligence, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and interposed a claim for punitive damages. After defendant opposed the filing, plaintiff submitted evidence that the dog previously had been returned to defendant animal shelter after biting another individual in the face. This court noted that, under long-standing rule, the owner of a domestic animal who knew or should have known of the animal's vicious propensities is liable for harm. However, here, even if defendant failed to disclose the dog's vicious propensities, that breach was not the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. In fact, the dog showed aggressive behavior during the three-and-a-half months the plaintiff owned the dog (including a previous bite to plaintiff's hand). This, in effect, placed the plaintiff on notice of the dog's vicious propensities. The court found that the lower court erred by not granting defendant's motion for summary judgment. With regard to the reach of the implied warranty of merchantability, the court found that even if a transaction from an animal shelter is subject to the warranty, the plaintiff failed to notify defendant of the "nonconformity of the goods" (to wit, the dog) within a reasonable period of time. The order was reversed.

Tighe v. North Shore Animal League 142 A.D.3d 607, 36 N.Y.S.3d 500 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016) In May 2012, Tighe adopted a dog from the North Shore Animal League after having been warned that the dog was possessive regarding food. After taking the dog home, Tighe noticed that the dog exhibited aggressive behavior, such as jumping at the backyard fence and growling at her when she attempted to feed the dog. In July of 2012, the dog bit Tighe’s hand when she tried to pick up a cookie off of the floor. As a result, Tighe spent three days in the hospital due to severe blood loss and swelling. Additionally, in September of 2012, the dog bit Tighe in the face causing severe injuries. After the incident in September, Tighe filed suit against the North Shore Animal League to recover damages for negligence, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court dismissed the claim of emotional distress but granted summary judgment in favor of Tighe with regard to the other claims of negligence. The North Shore Animal League appealed the lower court’s decision. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of New York overturned the lower court’s decision and granted summary judgment in favor of the North Shore Animal League on all claims. The court found that the North Shore Animal League was not a proximate cause to Tighe’s injuries for failing to adequately warn her about the dog’s aggreesive behavior because Tighe learned of the dog’s aggressive behavior three months prior to the incident that caused Tighe’s injuries. According to the court, once Tighe learned of the dog’s aggressive tendencies, she was in the best position to take “precautionary measures to prevent harm to herself.” So, even if the North Shore Animal League had failed to warn Tighe of the dog’s aggressive tendencies prior to the adoption, Tighe “independently” learned of the dog’s aggressive behavior prior to the incident which eliminated the North Shore Animal League as being a proximate cause of her injuries.
Toledo v. Tellings 871 N.E.2d 1152 (Ohio, 2007)

In this Ohio case, the defendant, who owned three pit bull type dogs, was convicted in the Municipal Court, Lucas County, of violating the Toledo city ordinance that limited ownership to only one pit bull per household. On appeal by the City, the Supreme Court found the state and the city have a legitimate interest in protecting citizens against unsafe conditions caused by pit bulls. The evidence presented in the trial court supports the conclusion that pit bulls pose a serious danger to the safety of citizens. The statutes and the city ordinance are rationally related to serve the legitimate interests of protecting Ohio and Toledo citizens.

Toledo v. Tellings - Reversed - 871 N.E.2d 1152 (Ohio, 2007) Slip Copy, 2006 WL 513946 (Ohio App. 6 Dist.), 2006-Ohio-975

Reversed - 871 N.E.2d 1152 (Ohio, 2007). In this Ohio case, defendant, who owned three pit bull type dogs, was convicted in the Municipal Court of violating city ordinance limiting ownership to only one pit bull per household, and of violating statute requiring owner of a "vicious dog" to provide liability insurance.  On appeal, the court held that the statute requiring an owner of a pit bull to provide liability insurance was unconstitutional.  Further, the statute, which provides that the ownership of a pit bull is prima facie evidence of the ownership of a vicious dog, was unconstitutional because after hearing evidence the trial court found that pit bulls as a breed are not inherently dangerous.  Thus, the court held that R.C. 955.11(A)(4)(a)(iii) is unconstitutional, since it has no real and substantial relationship to a legitimate state interest. 

Tracey v. Solesky Not Reported in A.3d, 2012 WL 1432263 (Md.,2012)

In this Maryland case, the Court of Appeals establishes a new standard of liability for a landlord who has knowledge of the presence of a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull dog and also modifies the common law liability as it relates to the pit bull breed of dogs. In doing so, the Court now holds that because of the "aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflect serious and sometimes fatal injuries," pit bull dogs and cross-bred pit bulls are now categorized as "inherently dangerous." Upon a plaintiff's sufficient proof that an attacking dog is a pit bull or pit bull mix, a person who knows that the dog is of the pit bull breed, including a landlord, is strictly liable for damages caused to the plaintiff who was attacked. The case was remanded to trial court with this modification to common law. This opinion was Superseded by Tracey v. Solesky , 427 Md. 627 (Md., 2012).

Tracey v. Solesky 50 A.3d 1075 (Md., 2012)

 

In this Maryland case, the Court of Appeals establishes a new standard of liability for a landlord who has knowledge of the presence of a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull dog and also modifies the common law liability as it relates to the pit bull breed of dogs. In doing so, the Court now holds that because of the "aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflect serious and sometimes fatal injuries," pit bull dogs and cross-bred pit bulls are now categorized as "inherently dangerous." Upon a plaintiff's sufficient proof that an attacking dog is a pit bull or pit bull mix, a person who knows that the dog is of the pit bull breed, including a landlord, is strictly liable for damages caused to the plaintiff who was attacked. The case was remanded to trial court with this modification to common law.

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