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Posted on May 20th, 2017

Koepke & Hiltabrand wins Summary Judgment in Dog Bite Case

Kurt Koepke and Lori Hiltabrand recently obtained a no liability judgment in a dog bite/animal liability case in Sangamon County, Illinois. Our client was a landlord who rented residential apartments. The Plaintiff was a guest of our client’s tenant. Plaintiff filed suit against our client after she was bitten by the tenant’s dog.  Plaintiff sought damages for personal injuries sustained from the dog bite.

Plaintiff argued that the no pet clause contained in the residential lease was enough to establish negligence on the part of the landlord in failing to enforce the provisions of the lease coupled with the fact that the landlord was aware that the dog had bitten a child approximately one week before.  Plaintiff also claimed the landlord was negligent in failing to warn the plaintiff of the dangerous propensities of the dog and failing to enforce the no pet clause in the lease. 

Koepke & Hiltabrand filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that the landlord could not be liable as a matter of law.  After hearing the arguments of Ms. Hiltabrand and Plaintiff’s counsel, the court granted Judgment in favor of our client (the landlord) finding that he could not be held liable for Plaintiff’s claimed injuries. 

The court relied upon Howle v. Aqua Illinois, 978 N.E.2d 1132 (4th Dist. 2012) and Klitzka v. Hellios, 810 N.E.2d 252 (2nd Dist. 2004), finding that a landlord-tenant relationship without more is insufficient to establish ownership under the Animal Control Act and that the plaintiff had failed to prove that the landlord had any type of controlling interest in the dog at issue or that he had maintained control over the property.  The court also held that a landlord does not retain control over the property when he has the right to coerce the removal of the animal by threatening to terminate the tenancy.  Likewise, even if the landlord was aware of the animal’s aggressiveness, a duty, and by extension, liability does not flow because the landlord had no control over what occurred on the rental property. 

The attorneys at Koepke & Hiltabrand routinely litigate animal liability (including dog bite) cases. Contact our attorneys if you have any questions regarding animal liability claims. 

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