Law School Case Brief
Dobrin v. Stebbins - 122 Ill. App. 2d 387, 259 N.E.2d 405 (1970)
Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 8, para. 12(d) (1963) provides: Dogs attacking or injuring person—Liability of owner. If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained. The term "owner" includes any person harboring or keeping a dog. The term "dog" includes both male and female of the canine species.
Plaintiff W.D., a minor, was injured by a dog owned by defendant Elmer C. Stebbins. W.D. entered defendant's property to sell magazines. Defendant's dog was tied to defendant's property, and there were no posted warnings regarding the dog. W.D.'s father, plaintiff Sidney Dobrin, filed a lawsuit against defendant in Illinois state court under Ill Rev Stats 1963, c 8, § 12(d), or the "Dog Bite Statute." That statute stated that the dog owner was liability if the owner's dog, without provocation, attacked or injured any person peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may lawfully be. After hearing evidence, the trial judge awarded plaintiff damages in the sum of $750. On appeal, defendant argued that the plaintiff was a trespasser when he entered defendant’s property; therefore, no judgment could be recovered under the statute. In the alternative, defendant contended that the damage award was excessive.
Was W.D. a "trespasser" when he entered defendant's property, thereby making the state's Dog Bite Statute inapplicable?
The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court found that W.D. was a licensee on defendant's land when he was bitten by defendant's dog because he was in a place where he may lawfully be within the meaning of the statute. That being so, proof that W.D., while peaceably conducting himself and without provocation, was injured by defendant's dog, justified entry of judgment in favor of W.D. and against defendant. Finally, the court found that the damages the trial judge awarded W.D. were within the limits of fair and reasonable compensation.
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