Monday, November 11, 2013

Gehrts v. Batteen case brief

Gehrts v. Batteen case brief summary
620 N.W.2d 775 (S.D. 2001)

Plaintiff appealed a decision of the Circuit Court of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, Brown County, South Dakota, granting summary judgment for defendants in plaintiff's action in negligence and strict liability to recover for injuries that she sustained as a result of being bitten by defendants' domesticated dog.


After being bitten by defendants' St. Bernard dog, plaintiff sued defendants in negligence and strict liability.


  • The trial court granted summary judgment for defendants, and on appeal, the appellate court affirmed. 
  • In order to be successful on her negligence claim, plaintiff had to show that defendants knew or had reason to know that their dog had abnormally dangerous propensities, or that defendants failed to use reasonable care in the circumstances in that defendants as prudent people should have foreseen the danger. 
  • Plaintiff failed to show that either was the case. 
  • Plaintiff had failed to present evidence of any prior incidents in which the St. Bernard had acted aggressively or which would have alerted defendants that the animal had dangerous propensities. 
  • There also was no evidence that defendants had violated the reasonable person standard of care in their handling of the dog. 
  • The appellate court declined to judicially adopt a strict liability standard for injuries caused by dogs, finding that the legislature was the proper place for the adoption of such a standard.

Trial court's grant of summary judgment for defendants was affirmed. Plaintiff's negligence claim failed because there was no evidence that defendants' dog previously had dangerous propensities or that defendants failed to act reasonably.

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