PREMISES LIABILITY– In Honore v. Family Dolar Stores of Louisiana, Inc., 2013-93 (La. App. 3 Cir. 6/12/13), the plaintiff tripped on a hole in a parking lot. Family Dollar did not own the property, which was leased from a third party. The plaintiff sought to hold Family Dollar liable despite its non-ownership of the parking lot.
The lease signed by Family Dollar Stores provided that it was authorized to step in and fulfill any obligation not performed by the third-party lessor. The plaintiff argued that this provision rendered Family Dollar liable because it did not repair the hole in the parking lot despite its employee’s knowledge of the defect. This argument was rejected and Family Dollar’s Motion for Summary Judgment was granted. In upholding summary judgment, the 3rd Circuit reasoned that the mere fact that Family Dollar had the contractual ability to fulfill the landlord’s duties did not impose an obligation to do so.
EVIDENCE– In Housing Authority of New Orleans v. King, 2012-1372 (La. App. 4 Cir. 6/12/13), the 4th Circuit overturned an eviction predicated upon a “one strike” lease provision authorizing termination of a lease for criminal activity. The tenant had been arrested for allegedly interfering with a police investigation, battery on a police officer and related conduct. The tenant denied the allegations.
At the eviction hearing, the housing authority offered no evidence or testimony. The trial court, in granting the eviction, relied upon a police report which was not entered into evidence. On appeal, the 4th Circuit overturned the eviction holding that the arguments of counsel, while “artful,” did not constitute evidence and that the trial court cannot consider evidence not properly offered and admitted.
ANIMALS– the plaintiff in Smith v. Kopynec, 2013 WL 2476543 (La. App. 1 Cir. 6/7/13) sued when she was injured and her pet schnauzer killed by a Pit Bull owned by the son of a couple who resided in the same neighborhood as the plaintiff. The Pit Bull “Boondocks” escaped from the defendants’ residence shortly before the attack. The plaintiff had been attacked by Boondocks a few days earlier. In response, the dog was removed by Animal Control only to be reclaimed by its owner (the son) prior to the second incident.
The parents of the dog’s owner moved for and were granted summary judgment on the basis that they were not aware of Boondocks’ presence at their property on the date of the attack. They factually demonstrated that they had advised the son to get rid of the dog and attested to a belief that he had done so. As non-owners of the dog, the parents could not be held “strictly liable” for the dog under Civil Code Article 2321. However, they could be liable if they were aware of the violent propensities of the dog on their land and failed to act reasonably in response.
In opposing summary judgment, the plaintiff correctly argued that summary judgment is rarely appropriate where a court must determine “subjective facts” such as intent, motive or knowledge or where the court must determine “the reasonableness of the acts and conduct of parties under all the facts and circumstances of a case.” Nevertheless, the 1st Circuit felt that the testimony of the parents must be accepted where no evidence showed that they knew of the presence of the dog or had any legitimate reason to reject the son’s claim that he had gotten rid of the dog.