ILNews

Landlord not responsible for dog bite

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.”
 


 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

ADVERTISEMENT