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STATE OF MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT
COUNTY OF RAMSEY 5th JUDICIAL DISTRICT
COURT FILE NO. 78596
Jamie and Lyn White,
on behalf of Adam White,
v. MEMORANDUM OF LAW
Defendant Sharon Stone submits this memorandum of law in support of Defendant not
being liable for the dog bite and damages.
1. Can Ms. Sharon Stone be held liable for the injuries Adam White sustained from the dog bite?
A. Can Ms. Stone be considered an “owner” of Bubbles the dog?
B. Did Adam White provoke Bubbles, the dog, into biting him?
C. Was Adam a trespasser, on the property of Mr. Noah Blake, when the bite occurred?
Mr. Noah Blake asked Ms. Sharon Stone, his animal-loving neighbor, to “babysit” his
dog Bubbles for a week while he was away. Mr. Blake has a fenced in yard for Bubbles. When
Ms. Stone first arrived at the house, she let Bubbles outside to play while she unpacked her
things. When Ms. Stone heard a scream coming from the backyard, she froze and ran outside to
see what had happened. When Ms. Stone got outside, she saw a young boy lying on the ground
with an apparent bleeding dog bite on his arm. The boy had a large stick in his hand. Stone took
Bubbles into the house and called 911 to get medical attention. The boy, 10-year-old Adam
White, lived in the neighborhood. Adam said that that day he was leaning over the fence, with
the stick in his hands, teasing Bubbles. Bubbles then had grabbed the stick and pulled him over
the fence and bit him while trying to grab the stick out of his hands.
There are three questions to answer in order to determine if Ms. Stone can be held liable for
the injury sustained by Adam White. It must be determined if Ms. Stone can actually be
considered an “owner” of Bubbles, if Adam White actually provoked Bubbles, and whether or
not Adam was a trespasser on the property in which the dog bite ensued.
A. .Ms. Stone cannot be held liable for the injury to Adam White because she is not an
“owner” of Bubbles the dog.
Minn. Stat. § 347.50 subd. 5 (2014), states that “Any person that cares for, keeps, has
custody of, has an interest in, or harbors a dog is said to be an owner.” Ms. Stone cannot be an
owner of Bubbles because she does not care for, keep, or harbor Bubbles. Ms. Stone is only
temporarily watching him. She cannot be held liable for the injury to Adam. A similar situation
happened in the case of Boitz v. Preblich, 405 N.W.2d 907 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987). In Boitz v
Preblich, a dog that bumped into a pedestrian, thus injuring him, had his owner sued for the
damages under the strict-liability statute. The trial court held that the strict-liability statute for
dogs was not applicable because there was no owner or keeper present under the Minn. Stat. §
347.50 subd. 5. The appellate court affirmed this ruling, and there was no agency liability
applied to the non-owner because there was no attendant harboring or keeping the dog. Ms.
Stone is, by definition, not an owner of Bubbles the dog. Because Ms. Stone is a non-owner of
Bubbles, and the actual owner of Bubbles, Mr. Blake, is not present, Ms. Stone cannot be held
liable because Mr. Blake was not present when the dog bite occurred.
In Carlson v. Friday, 694 N.W.2d 828 (Minn. Ct. App. 2005), a dog groomer sued a dog
owner after being bit by the dog they were grooming. The court held that, in accordance with
Minn. Stat. § 347.50 subd. 5 (2014), the groomer was a “keeper” of the dog and thus, the
groomer is not bale to sue for damages under the dog-bite statute. In comparison with Carlson v.
Friday, Ms. Stone is not a keeper because she does not meet the requirements of Minn. Stat. §
347.50 subd. 5 (2014), so she cannot be sued for the injury to Adam White.
In accordance with Minn. Stat. § 347.50 subd. 4 (2014), a “Proper Enclosure,” is defined as
any enclosed structure or building that keeps the animal safe from the elements outside and
prevents escaping. Because Bubbles the dog has a fenced in yard, he cannot escape. He is fenced
in correctly and is taken care of by the owner, which prevents him from being a dog at large. He
cannot run away and bite people, so Ms. Stone cannot be held liable.
B. Adam White provoked the dog, Bubbles, into biting him.
Minn. Stat. § 347.50 subd. 8 (2014): states that provocation is defined as “an act or act(s) that
could be expected to provoke a dog made by a reasonable adult.” Because Adam is ten-years-
old, a reasonable child should know that teasing a dog with a stick can provoke it into possible
biting and growling. Adam should have been able to foresee the outcome of teasing a dog with a
stick like any reasonable adult should. Adam had a stick in his hand when he was bit and that
signals that he was provoking the dog at the time of the dog bite. A similar situation occurred in
the case of Bailey v. Morris, 323 N.W.2d 785 (1982). In Bailey v. Morris, a young girl was found
to have provoked a mother dog by getting to close to her and her puppies, thus making her
nervous, and was bit as a result. The court ruled that the girl had indeed provoked the mother dog
and was not granted damages under the dog-bite statute, or strict liability statute. Adam did have
a stick and said that he was teasing Bubbles with the stick while leaning over the fence. It can be
argued that Adam provoked the dog into biting him because he was brandishing the stick at the
time of the bite.
Minn. Stat. § 347.50 subd. 2 (2014): “A dangerous dog is any dog that has inflicted harm on
a human being in private or on public property without being provoked, killed a domestic animal
without being provoked, or is found to be potentially dangerous after the owner notices, that it
aggressively bites, attacks or endangers the lives of human or domestic animals.” Since Bubbles
did not bite Adam without provocation, Bubbles cannot be labeled as a dangerous dog. Bubbles
has shown no inclination to bite or injury either humans or domestic animals. The facts do not
show that Bubbles had ever bit any human or animal before. Therefore, it can be assumed that in
order for the bite to have happened, Bubbles would have had to been provoked.
Minn. Stat. § 347.50 subd. 3 (2014) defines a potentially dangerous dog to be any dog that
inflicts harm on human or domestic animals, on either public or private property, unprovoked,
and is found to be dangerous after the owner notices it’s actions. Because Bubbles is not an
aggressive dog, he cannot be reasonably labeled as a potentially dangerous dog. Bubbles does
not meet the requirements set out by the Minn. Stat. § 347.50 Subd. 3 (2014).
Another similar case to this case is Engquist v. Loyas, 787 N.W.2d 220 (Minn. Ct. App.
2010). In Engquist v. Loyas, a child was bit by a dog and was found to have provoked the dog
into biting her. The child was not awarded damages under the dog bite statute because she had
provoked the dog into biting her. Adam did provoke Bubbles into biting him on account of the
stick he was teasing Bubbles with. Therefore, Adam cannot receive damages as well. Ms. Stone
cannot be held liable because Adam was a trespasser on Mr. Blake’s property, and not Ms.
C. Adam White was a trespasser on the property of Mr. Noah Blake.
A similar case exists of a child trespassing in Matson v. Kivimaki, 294 Minn.140 (1972). In
Matson v. Kivimaki, a two-year-old child was “trespassing” on the land of his neighbors. He
stuck his body through the fence, up to his waist, and was bit by the neighbor’s dog while trying
to wake it up and pet it. The court found that the child was indeed trespassing, and did not
receive damages under the dog bite statute. Adam was on the property of Mr. Blake, without
permission, so he can be found as a trespasser. Adam cannot receive any damages under the dog-
bite statute because he is a trespasser.
Minn. Stat. § 561.09 (2014) states that any person who knowingly permits and animal to
run at large or trespass shall be held liable for the damages sustained from such an act.
According to the requirements set out by Minn. Stat. § 347.50 subd. 4 (2014) Ms. Stone cannot
by held liable because Bubbles has a fenced in yard which prevents escaping and being labeled
as a dog at large. Because Bubbles is knowingly fenced in, there can be no claim that Ms. Stone
should expect Bubbles to be able to escape the yard, and therefore she cannot be held liable for
the injury to Adam White. Adam White was a trespasser and Bubbles was in his fenced in yard,
so Ms. Stone cannot be held liable.
For the reasons set forth above, we respectfully request that the allegations brought
against Ms. Stone be dropped because she is not an owner of Bubbles, Adam was a trespasser,
and Adam provoked Bubbles into biting him. Therefore, Ms. Stone cannot be held liable for the
injury sustained by Adam White.