A state appeals court issued an opinion stemming from injuries a Tennessee woman suffered while encountering two dogs. The woman and her daughter were walking on a sidewalk adjacent to a Whole Foods Market when two dogs began barking at the pair. The dogs began barking aggressively at the woman’s daughter; in response, the woman picked up some rocks and threw them towards the dogs to distract them so that her daughter could get away. The dogs began to charge at the woman, and as she was running away, she fell into a chair and sustained injuries to her hip and arms.
The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the company that operated the business the dogs escaped from. They alleged that their owners were liable under Tennessee Code 44-8-413, which mandates that dog owners maintain a duty to keep their dog “under reasonable control at all times and from keeping their dogs from running at large.” Further, the statute explains that those who breach the duty may be liable for civil damages to the injury victim.
In this case, the company argued that the statute did not apply to them because they were not the “owner” of the dog. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs might claim that the business had temporary custody or control of the animals; however, this temporary control is insufficient to impose liability. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, and the appeals court reversed the summary judgment.