PATRICIA GIACALONE v. HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE TOWN OF WALLINGFORD, SC 18669
Judicial District of New Haven
Negligence; Whether Common-Law Dog Bite Action Against Landlord will lie Where Landlord was not the Owner or Keeper of the Dog. The plaintiff tenant commenced this common-law negligence action against the defendant landlord, seeking to recover for injuries that she allegedly sustained when she was bitten by a dog owned by two other tenants. The defendant moved to strike the complaint, alleging that there was no cause of action for negligence against a landlord for a dog bite incident when the landlord did not own or keep the dog. In granting the defendant's motion, the trial court recognized that in Auster v. Norwalk United Methodist Church, 286 Conn.152 (2008), the Supreme Court implied that such a cause of action might be viable against a landlord who was not the owner or keeper of the dog, but it found that Auster was limited to its facts. In Auster, the plaintiff was bitten by a dog on the defendant church's property. The dog was owned by a church employee who resided in the defendant's parish house. The plaintiff raised a negligence claim under the dog bite statute and a common-law negligence claim, and the court instructed the jury that if it found for the plaintiff on her statutory claim, it did not have to consider her common-law claim. The jury found for the plaintiff on the statutory claim, and the trial court rendered a judgment in accordance with the verdict. The Appellate Court subsequently reversed the trial court's judgment, concluding, as to the statutory claim, that the church could not be liable under the statute because it was not the owner or the keeper of the dog. As to the common-law claim, it remanded the matter for a new trial without any discussion as to the viability of the claim, and the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court's ruling. In the present matter, the plaintiff appealed from the trial court's ruling granting the defendant's motion to strike, and the Appellate Court (122 Conn. App. 120) reversed the judgment of the trial court. It stated that the trial court read Auster too narrowly in concluding that it was limited to its facts. It therefore determined that the trial court should not have stricken the plaintiff's common-law claim as insufficient merely because the defendant was not alleged to be the owner or keeper of the dog. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that, pursuant to Auster, the defendant could be held liable as a result of a dog bite from a dog that was owned and kept by one of its tenants.