A Win for Dog Owners

happy dogA Win for Dog Owners!

On July 24, 2014, Z&A secured a ruling in favor of its client in a Colorado Premises Liability Act (“PLA”) and negligence matter filed in Adams County District Court. Partner Kristi Lush and Associate Erica Payne successfully moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims for failure to state a claim for relief pursuant to C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5).

Z&A was hired as defense counsel for a homeowner’s insurance company. Defendant’s two dogs ran and jumped against a chain-link fence, barking and allegedly causing a passerby, who was separated from the dogs by the fence, to leave the sidewalk, enter the street, and be struck by a passing vehicle. Plaintiffs claimed that the defendant dog owner was negligent in allowing defendant’s two dogs to run free within the confines of a fully enclosed, chain-link fence. Plaintiffs further claimed that defendant was a “landowner” of the adjoining sidewalk for purposes of the PLA.

On appeal, the case called on the Court of Appeals to evaluate, for the first time in Colorado, the liability of a dog owner for injuries sustained by a person frightened by the owner’s dogs. The plaintiffs argued that: (1) the district court erred in concluding as a matter of law that the defendant owed no duty to plaintiffs and (2) the district court erred in concluding that defendant was not subject to liability as a landowner under the Colorado PLA.

In the appeal, and at oral argument on January 26, 2016, Z&A argued that it was not reasonably foreseeable to the defendant that a passerby, startled by the dogs that were confined, would run out into the street into the path of moving vehicles. Z&A further argued that the PLA did not apply to the defendant, since public sidewalks adjacent to a landowner’s property are not property of the landowner pursuant to the PLA, and since the defendant did not “unleash” his dogs onto the sidewalk or in any way affect the public sidewalk.
On April 7, 2016, the Court of Appeals handed down its ruling, agreeing with Z&A and upholding the lower court’s judgment.

If you are interested, feel free to read the published opinion in its entirety.

Click here to read the CDLA Update about this decision.