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In this Georgia case, the plaintiff was injured from being bitten by defendants' dog who was chained to the bed of their pickup truck while the defendants were inside an adjacent restaurant. The plaintiff sued defendants, claiming that they failed to warn her of their dog's dangerous propensities and that they committed negligence per se by violating the state's strict liability statute (OCGA § 51-2-7) and the Hall County Animal Control Ordinance. A jury found in favor of the defendants. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in granting the defendants' motion for a directed verdict as to their dog's dangerous propensities and denying her motion for a directed verdict as to the defendants' negligence per se. The court first noted that OCGA § 51-2-7 relieves a plaintiff from producing evidence of a dog's vicious propensity based on evidence of a violation of an ordinance that restricts dogs from running at large. In this case, there was no evidence that the Dyers' dog was “running at large.” The Hall County Animal Control Ordinance permitted dogs to be controlled by chains as defendants' dog was at the time of the attack. As the court stated, "The ordinance does not protect people who approach restrained animals, regardless of whether the animal is at heel, on a leash, or restrained in the bed of a truck." The court found that the evidence was therefore more than sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that defendants' dog was “under restraint.” Further, there was no evidence that the owners had knowledge of the dog's vicious propensity. The trial court did not err in denying Huff's motion for a directed verdict. Affirmed.
[a] person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash.
FN1. OCGA § 9-11-50(a).
FN2. Hilb, Rogal & Hamilton Co. of Atlanta v. Holley, 295 Ga.App. 54, 57(2), 670 S.E.2d 874 (2008).
FN3. Id. at 56(1), 670 S.E.2d 874.
FN4. Johnston v. Warendh, 252 Ga.App. 674, 676(1), 556 S.E.2d 867 (2001).
FN5. Compare Oertel v. Chi Psi Fraternity, 239 Ga.App. 147, 150(2), 521 S.E.2d 71 (1999) (“If an animal is running at large in violation of a local ordinance when it bites someone, the owner's knowledge of its propensity to bite is immaterial.”)
FN6. Durham v. Mooney, 234 Ga.App. 772, 773(1), 507 S.E.2d 877 (1998).
FN7. See generally Thompson v. City of Atlanta, 274 Ga.App. 1, 4(1), 616 S.E.2d 219 (2005) (knowledge may not be inferred based on evidence that is uncertain, speculative, or merely raises a conjecture or possibility); compare Raith v. Blanchard, 271 Ga.App. 723, 725(1), 611 S.E.2d 75 (2005) (genuine issue of material fact existed as to dog owner's knowledge of vicious propensity where owner's statement that dog “could bite somebody” was made after dog previously “nicked” someone's hand with its teeth after trying to bite them in the face); Supan v. Griffin, 238 Ga.App. 404, 406, 519 S.E.2d 22 (1999) (genuine issue of material fact existed as to dog owner's knowledge of vicious propensity where owner's statement that neighbor should “do whatever was necessary ... to keep ... dogs from attacking” came after dogs had been involved in an attack).
FN8. Hubbard v. Dept. of Transp., 256 Ga.App. 342, 350(3), 568 S.E.2d 559 (2002).
FN9. See Columbus v. Schmidt, 269 Ga. 723-724, 507 S.E.2d 435 (1998).
FN10. Compare Johnston, supra at 677(1), 556 S.E.2d 867 (whether dog was sufficiently “confined” to comply with ordinance was a jury question where dog was running without restraint.)