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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. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  2. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  3. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  4. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  5. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

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