SW Legal studies in Business

Company Responsible for Guard Dog that Attacked Employee
Description

Appeals court upheld a jury verdict in favor of an employee who was attacked by a company guard dog when she went to her car. Since the company knew the dog was protective of company property, it had a duty to provide greater protection for employees.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Foreseeability; Vicious Dog

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

TCAG operated a used car lot. VanHouten was an employee who worked as a title clerk. One day she left the office to get some papers from her car. An employee had moved it to the back lot. When she went to the back lot, she was attacked without warning by a guard dog TCAG kept in the back lot. The dog inflicted serious injuries. She sued TCAG for negligence. The jury found TCAG negligent in the handling of the dog and awarded VanHouten $50,000 in damages. TCAG appealed, contending that VanHouten failed to show the dog had dangerous propensities.

Decision

Affirmed. A party should not be held responsible for the consequences of an act that cannot be reasonably foreseen, and there is no duty to warn of danger when no danger is anticipated. The plaintiff satisfied the burden of proof by establishing that the owner had actual or constructive knowledge that would put an ordinary person on notice that the dog could cause harm. The determination of the danger posed is for the jury. It was reasonable for the jury to find that a guard dog, which was chained up and exposed to the elements on commercial property, would be protective of the property and dangerous to invitees such as VanHouten who entered the property in the normal course of her employment.

Citation Labaj v. VanHouten, ---S.W.3d--- (2010 WL 3432600, Ct. App., Tx., 2010)

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