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Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in "Dog-Bite" Case

October 13, 2016

Judge Patricia Nieto of the Los Angeles Superior Court Grants Motion for Summary Judgment in premises liability / "dog-bite" case against local Pet Shop and animal rescue owner in a case handled by Lisa D. Angelo and Kelsey L. Maxwell.

Four days before the statute of limitations was to pass, on November 6, 2014, the plaintiff, a frequent visitor of a local pet supply boutique, brought a three-count complaint against the pet supply ("Defendant") for Strict Liability, Negligence and Premises Liability. In her complaint, the plaintiff claimed that while on the defendant's property, playing with several dogs, she suffered a baby dog scratch/bite from a 4 month old Maltese puppy who was in a dog pen and became jealous when the plaintiff stopped paying attention to him. Over the course of discovery, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her Strict Liability claim against the defendant as it was learned the defendant was not the "owner" of the Maltese and was simply allowing the dog's owner to show the puppy in her store so it could be adopted. Evidence gathered further showed the defendant had no notice of "dangerous propensities" such that an attack or baby dog scratch was foreseeable by the puppy.

Despite the plaintiff's dismissal of her primary claim under California's "dog-bite" statute, the plaintiff proceeded with her lawsuit against the defendant under a premises liability theory. In order for a property owner to be liable for negligence or premises liability, however, the plaintiff must prove the defendant had notice of a dangerous condition on its property which, in this case, meant the plaintiff had to prove the defendant had knowledge of violent propensities of the animal in question. When evidence gathered through discovery showed the Maltese was "sweet natured," the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment as to the remaining claims alleged by the plaintiff in her complaint.

On September 29, 2016, after two hearings, consideration of a 60 paragraph expert declaration and a supplemental expert declaration offered by the plaintiff's "dog training expert," the Court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment in its entirety. First the court ruled most of the plaintiff's expert declaration was irrelevant and inadmissible. Then, the court held, there was no evidence to show notice of the dog's violent propensities or the existence of facts that would make the behavior foreseeable.