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Anderson v. Christopherson - 816 N.W.2d 626 (Minn. 2012)

Rule:

On review of a grant of summary judgment, an appellate court considers (1) whether there are any genuine issues of material fact, and (2) whether the lower courts erred in their application of the law. When determining whether genuine issues of material fact exist, courts view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted. 

Facts:

Plaintiff dog attack victim Anderson brought suit against defendant dog owners, who were father and son, seeking damages under Minn. Stat. § 347.22 for injuries suffered when he fell and broke his hip after the owners' dog, Bruno, attacked the victim's dog, Tuffy. The district court granted partial summary judgment to the owners. The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed, holding that summary judgment was inappropriate. The father appealed. The victim was walking Tuffy when Bruno charged across the street and seized Tuffy by the stomach. In attempting to separate the dogs, the victim fell and broke his hip. The son owned Bruno, who was staying in a house owned by his father. The district court held that the father was not liable because he was not an "owner" of Bruno and that there was no liability under § 347.22 because Bruno's conduct was not focused on the victim. 

Issue:

Did the court of appeals err when it remanded for a jury trial on the question of whether dog attack victim's injuries were caused by the conduct of defendants' dog, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 347.22?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court rejected the "focus" requirement previously articulated in Mueller v. Theis, 512 N.W.2d 907 (Minn. App. 1994), and held that the question was whether Bruno's attack proximately caused the victim's injuries. Because the question of whether the victim's injuries were a direct and immediate result of Bruno's actions was a question about which reasonable minds could differ, it was a question for the jury, which could find that the attack on Tuffy caused the fall and injuries, that the attack caused the victim to intervene, resulting in the fall and injuries, or that the attack caused the victim to respond, but the response broke the chain of causation. The father could be found to be a "harborer" of Bruno by giving him lodging or refuge.

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