Landlord not responsible for dog bite

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment today for a landlord who was sued by a postal carrier who was bitten by a tenant’s dog that had escaped from the property. The judges declined to find that by entering into a lease, a landlord establishes a relationship to a tenant’s dog.

Duane Deitrich rented property to Angel Todd and Steve Sanders, who had a large male pit bull dog. Although Deitrich typically didn’t allow pets, he made an exception for the pit bull because he had been with the family for seven years and the family said he was well behaved. Deitrich later learned the dog was trained to dislike people who wore a uniform and non-white people.

The dog escaped the property and bit postal carrier Alrita Morehead in the right breast. She sued Deitrich for damages. The trial court granted summary judgment for Deitrich because he didn’t retain control of the property. The trial court denied Morehead’s motion to correct error.

Caselaw says, to prevail against a landowner for the acts of a tenant’s dog, Morehead must "demonstrate both that the landowner[ ], 'retained control over the property' and 'had actual knowledge that the [dog] had dangerous propensities.'" Morehead conceded that Deitrich didn’t have control of the property when the dog escaped and bit her, which entitles Deitrich to summary judgment.

In Alrita Morehead v. Duane Deitrich, No. 09A04-1003-CT-172, Morehead argued Deitrich had a duty to prevent a dangerous situation under the theory of premises liability. She cited several cases addressing property defects, but the appellate court declined to find the dog in this case to be a property defect. It’s the duty of the owner to keep the animal confined, and the mere possession or ownership of land from which an animal strays isn’t sufficient to make the landlord liable as long as he or she isn’t the animal’s keeper, wrote Judge Carr Darden citing Blake v. Dunn Farms, Inc., 413 N.E.2d 560, 563 (Ind. 1980).

The appellate court also declined to find that by virtue of entering into a lease, a landlord establishes a relationship to his or her tenant’s dog.

“It is not the dog’s mere presence on leased property that causes harm. Rather, it is the owner’s failure to adequately confine that dog. Thus, we do not conclude that there is a high degree of foreseeability that leasing property to the owners of vicious dogs will result in injury to third parties,” he wrote. “We agree that society has an interest in preventing dog attacks against innocent parties, and therefore in keeping vicious dogs adequately confined. It would be unreasonable, however, to impose a duty on landlords to regulate tenants’ animals, where the owners clearly are in the best position to do so.”



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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues