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Law School Case Brief

Boitz v. Preblich - 405 N.W.2d 907 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987)

Rule:

Minn. Stat. § 347.22 is a strict liability statute. A strict liability in damages, irrespective of any question of negligence and without the proof of scienter as at common law, is imposed by § 347.22 upon the owner of a dog for injuries which the dog, without provocation, inflicts upon a person. The statute leaves the dog owner in the same position which the common law left the keeper of a wild animal; namely, with the strict liability of an insurer. A dog owner is liable in damages for injuries resulting from the unprovoked attack of his dog even though the owner acted with due care.

Facts:

Plaintiffs husband and wife filed an action based on strict liability, common law scienter, common law negligence, and negligence per se in connection with an accident on respondents' property. It appears that when the plaintiff husband noticed that the lights of the neighbor’s car were on, he approached the neighbor’s house and a dog ran out of door, causing him to lose his balance and fall. The trial court dismissed the action and granted the motion for summary judgment filed by respondents.

Issue:

Does the strict liability rule apply in favor of the plaintiffs?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court reversed the holding that limited the scope of statutory liability to a vicious attack and remanded the case for trial on that issue. The Court held that the neighbor and his friend were not negligent as a matter of law because the accident was not foreseeable. Their actions enabling the dog to leave the house were not negligent because neither had any reason to anticipate that personal injury would result to the husband. The local ordinance did not impose liability on a theory of negligence per se for injuries caused by a dog on its owner's property.

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