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Is the Owner of a Store Liable for Injuries Caused by a Customer’s Dog? (Braese v. Stinker Stores)

A customer’s dog injured another customer in a store, is the owner of a store liable for the injuries caused by a customer’s dog?  A store allowed customer’s to bring their dogs into the store.  On one occasion, a customer’s dog jumped on another customer, causing injuries.

The Idaho Supreme Court addressed whether the store had a duty to protect one customer from another customer’s dog.  The court noted that every person, in the conduct of his business, has a duty to exercise ordinary care to prevent unreasonable, foreseeable risks of harm to others.

The court then addressed the general question as to whether allowing any dog on store property creates an unreasonable risk of harm.  The court noted that under common law, all dogs, regardless of breed or size, are presumed to be harmless domestic animals.

The final question the court addressed was whether allowing the particular dog that jumped on another customer created an unreasonable risk of harm to members of the public.  In the absence of statute to the contrary, an owner is liable for injuries caused by a domesticated animal where the owner knew or should have known of the animal’s vicious or dangerous propensity.  A store owner would also have a duty to protect its patrons from a dog that the store owner knew or should have known was vicious or had a dangerous propensity.  The court found that the manager of the store was familiar with the dog, that the dog had visited the store on prior occasions, and that there was nothing in the dog’s prior behavior that gave her any reason for concern about the particular dog creating problems in the store.  Therefore, the store owner did not have a duty to protect the customer from that particular dog.

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