On rehearing, appellate court reaffirms ruling against animal shelter

An Indianapolis animal shelter still must face a negligence lawsuit from a family whose daughter was mauled by an adopted dog after the Indiana Court of Appeals reaffirmed its reversal of summary judgment for the shelter on Wednesday. The appellate court granted rehearing for the limited purpose of clarifying the issues of fact that preclude summary judgment.

The COA reversed the summary judgment ruling in favor of Southside Animal Shelter Inc. in October 2020. Plaintiff Mark Brown sued on behalf of his daughter, Brooke, who was mauled by a dog named Grieg who was known to be aggressive. The Browns claimed the shelter had committed fraud and constructive fraud when it listed Grieg’s history as “unknown” on an adoption release form.

“Southside claims there existed no fraud, but nonetheless, the language therein relieves ‘Southside from liability from situations arising from Grieg’s actions,’” Judge Melissa May wrote in the Wednesday opinion on rehearing. “… However, we noted in our opinion that ‘there also remains a question of fact regarding whether Southside exercised reasonable care in ascertaining Grieg’s behavioral history prior to allowing the Browns to adopt him.’

“This determination about the actions taken, or not taken, by Southside prior to Mark signing the release directly relates to whether Southside misrepresented its knowledge regarding Grieg’s history when reporting Grieg’s history was ‘unknown’ in the release,” May continued. “… As Southside notes in its brief on rehearing, this is the only theory under which Mark can proceed with his fraud claim. There exist issues of material fact regarding the information communicated to Southside prior to Grieg’s adoption.”

Southside also raised the issue on rehearing of its relationship with Darcie Kurtz, who was given information from a prior shelter about Grieg’s aggressive behavior. According to May, there exists an issue of fact as to whether Kurtz was an employee or volunteer at Southside Animal Shelter at the time Grieg was brought there and “whether that relationship means Kurtz’s knowledge regarding Grieg can be imputed to Southside.”

“As noted in our original opinion, these issues of material fact preclude summary judgment,” May concluded. “Having clarified the issues raised in Southside’s petition for rehearing, we reaffirm our original opinion in all respects.”

The case is Brooke Brown, by next friend Mark Brown v. Southside Animal Shelter, Inc., Humane Society of Clinton County, Inc. and the City of Indianapolis, 20A-CT-66.

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