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Property owners have no duty for tenant’s free-running dog

May 18, 2015

Although the landlords provided the means to restrain the tenant’s dog, they are not responsible for the injuries a motorcyclist sustained when the pooch dashed into the road and caused an accident.  

Gary Byers filed a complaint against the property owners, Robert and Rhoda Moredock, following his bike wreck. He argued the landlords breached their duty under a Howard County ordinance by permitting a dangerous dog to run on the property they control.

The Moredocks owned the house and surrounding four acres along County Road West 250 South in Howard County, but the dog, a Rottweiler named Brutus, belonged to their tenant Jessica Stine.

In depositions, Robert Moredock testified the dog was usually inside the house or on a chain while Rhoda Moredock said she only saw the dog loose in the yard when someone came outside and she never saw the dog chase a car or other animal.

After the Howard Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Moredocks, Byers appealed. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in Gary P. Byers v. Robert E. Moredock and Rhoda S. Moredock, 34A04-1412-CT-560.

On appeal, Byers contended Robert Moredock’s installation of a metal post to restrain the Rottweiler indicated he knew the dog had a propensity to run.

The Court of Appeals was not convinced. Pointing to Morehead v. Deitrich, 932 N.E.2d at 1279, the unanimous panel ruled although Robert Moredock placed a metal post in the yard, it was not “reasonably foreseeable” that the dog’s owners would not adequately restrain him or that the dog would escape and run into the road.

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