Rachel Stahle obtains summary judgment in Missouri dog bite case10/30/2011
The Circuit Court of Johnson County, Missouri, recently granted a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Rachel Stahle on behalf of Defendant Melissa Haggard, in a dog bite case involving Defendant Haggard's Great Dane, named "Beast." Plaintiff Jimmy Watts claimed that he was riding his bicycle near Defendant Haggard's home in rural Johnson County when Beast ran onto the road and bit Plaintiff's arm, causing injury. Plaintiff alleged negligence, negligence per se, and strict liability against Defendant. In disputing Plaintiff's claims, the defense argued that Plaintiff could not prove negligence because Defendant had no actual or constructive knowledge that her dog had dangerous propensities. In addition, Plaintiff could not prove that Defendant Haggard was negligent per se because he would be unable to show that Defendant Haggard violated a statute or ordinance by not leashing her dog. No leash law applied to Defendant Haggard's property because it was in rural Johnson County and an affidavit signed by a local Deputy Sheriff was used in support. Lastly, the defense argued that Plaintiff could not show that Defendant Haggard was strictly liable to him because there was no evidence that Beast had dangerous propensities abnormal to other dogs. Plaintiff attempted to controvert the material facts by arguing that Beast had dangerous propensities abnormal to other dogs. In support, Plaintiff produced an affidavit signed by a distant relative of Defendant Haggard which stated that people at Defendant Haggard's home had told him the dog was dangerous. However, the affidavit did not identify the declarant and the defense argued that it was inadmissible hearsay, with which the Court agreed. After fully briefing the issues and hearing arguments on the motion, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant Haggard, finding that she had no actual or constructive knowledge that Beast had dangerous propensities, that no statute or ordinance was violated, and that there was no evidence Beast had abnormally dangerous propensities that would subject Defendant Haggard to strict liability.