Articles Posted in Animal / Dog Law

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Plaintiff, as administratrix of the estate of her late husband, filed a complaint against Monroe County alleging negligence in performing statutory duties, thereby allowing vicious dogs to remain at large, and wrongful death. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the County based upon the court’s conclusion that the evidence was insufficient to establish a disputed issue of material fact in relation to the special relationship exception to the public duty doctrine. The court then entered, sua sponte, an order summarily dismissing all of Plaintiff’s remaining claims against the County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because there was disputed evidence on each of the factors required to establish the special relationship exception to the public duty doctrine, the the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment to the County; and (2) because the summary judgment order upon which the dismissal order was apparently based was dismissed, likewise, the circuit court’s dismissal order is vacated. View "Bowden v. Monroe County Commission" on Justia Law

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Tinkerbell, a female pit bull terrier, injured a neighbor child who was playing in the yard of Michael and Kim Blatt. The circuit court ordered that Tinkerbell, the family pet of the Blatts, be euthanized pursuant to West Virginia’s vicious dog statute. In making its decision, the circuit court relied on a presumption that pit bull dog breeds are inherently vicious. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s destruction order, holding (1) because extensive debate exists over whether scientific evidence and social concerns justify breed-specific presumptions, courts may not, upon judicial notice, rely solely upon a breed-specific presumption in ordering the destruction of a dog pursuant to W. Va. Code 19-20-20; and (2) the facts and circumstances surrounding the bite in this case did not support the circuit court’s determination that Tinkerbell is dangerous within the meaning of section 19-20-20. View "State v. Blatt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Animal / Dog Law

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The City of Bluefield charged Estella Robinson with having a dangerous animal. Robinson pled guilty to the charge. The municipal court subsequently ordered the dog to be killed. Robinson appealed. The circuit court concluded that the municipal court had the authority to order the destruction of Robinson’s dog and affirmed the municipal court’s order. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the municipal court for entry of an order vacating its order to kill Robinson’s dog, holding (1) before the destruction of a dog may be ordered under the authority of W. Va. Code 19-20-20, satisfactory proof that the dog is “vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons or other dogs or animals” must be presented before a circuit court or magistrate; and (2) because the City of Bluefield did not offer such proof before a circuit court or a magistrate, the circuit court erred by affirming the municipal court’s order. View "Robinson v. City of Bluefield" on Justia Law

Posted in: Animal / Dog Law

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Decedent died as a result of the injuries he received when he was attacked by several pit bull terriers. Petitioner, the administratrix of Decedent's estate, brought this action against Respondents, the Monroe County Commission and Patricia Green, the Monroe County dog warden, alleging, inter alia, that Respondents failed to impound the dogs due to non-payment of taxes and for not having proper registration and failed to impound and/or destroy the dogs for being vicious. Respondents filed a motion to dismiss, asserting the public duty doctrine and statutory immunities. Petitioner subsequently moved to amend her complaint to incorporate allegations of fact to support her claim that a "special relationship" exception to the public duty doctrine applied. Before ruling on the motion to amend, the circuit court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing Petitioner's case on the basis of statutory immunities and in failing to grant Petitioner's motion to amend her complaint. Remanded. View "Bowden v. Monroe County Comm'n" on Justia Law

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After Petitioner's dog, a Rotweiller mix, attacked Respondents' two-year-old daughter, causing serious injuries, Respondents brought a civil suit under W. Va. Code 19-20-20 against Petitioners requesting that the magistrate court order Petitioners' dog killed, alleging that the dog was vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other people. The county magistrate court ordered the dog killed. The circuit court affirmed. Petitioners appealed, arguing that section 19-20-20 does not provide a mechanism by which parties may bring a civil suit to have a dog destroyed. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated the circuit court's order, holding that section 19-20-20 does not authorize a civil suit seeking destruction of a dog. View "Durham v. Jenkins" on Justia Law