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A look at Minnesota's dog bite statutes from a Maryland attorney

Bruno v Tuffy a case for the dogs

A guest post from Maryland attorney Ronald V. Miller today on last week’s Minnesota Supreme Court decision in Anderson v. Christopherson.

Briefly, Gordon Helmer Anderson was injured during an attack on his dog, Tuffy, by a dog named Bruno, owned by Neil Raymond Christopherson. Anderson and his wife Maxine sued Neil Christopherson and his father, Dennis Christopherson, arguing, among other things, that the Christophersons are strictly liable for Anderson’s injuries under Minnesota statute.

The district court granted partial summary judgment to the Christophersons, holding that: (1) the Christophersons are not liable under the statute because Bruno’s conduct was not focused on Anderson; and (2) Dennis Christopherson is not liable because he was not an “owner” of Bruno, as that term is defined under the statute. The court of appeals reversed, holding that summary judgment was inappropriate and the Supreme Court affirmed.

Miller says the case is a good example of how a seemingly simple, common sense statute can become anything but once it is applied and re-applied.

I’m sure Minnesota’s legislators had no idea that their seemingly simple rule would spawn so much litigation. There are lessons to be learned.

Miller’s commentary is here.


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