Ridley v. Sioux Empire Pit Bull Rescue, Inc., 080719 SDSC, 28668-a-DG

Docket Nº:28668-a-DG
Opinion Judge:GILBERTSON, Chief Justice
Party Name:DARLETTE MAE RIDLEY, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. SIOUX EMPIRE PIT BULL RESCUE, INC., SUSAN TRIBBLE-ZACHER and HARRY PODHRADSKY, Defendants and Appellees.
Attorney:JAMI J. BISHOP KIMBERLY J. LANHAM of Johnson Janklow Abdallah & Reiter, LLP Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellant. PAUL H. LINDE MICHAEL J. SCHAFFER of Schaffer Law Office, Prof., LLC Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellee, Sioux Empire Pit Bull R...
Judge Panel:JENSEN, Justice, and SALTER, Justice, concur specially. KERN, Justice, and SEVERSON, Retired Justice, dissent. SALTER, Justice (concurring specially). JENSEN, Justice, joins this special writing. SEVERSON, Retired Justice (dissenting). KERN, Justice, joins this dissent.
Case Date:August 07, 2019
Court:Supreme Court of South Dakota
 
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2019 S.D. 48

DARLETTE MAE RIDLEY, Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

SIOUX EMPIRE PIT BULL RESCUE, INC., SUSAN TRIBBLE-ZACHER and HARRY PODHRADSKY, Defendants and Appellees.

No. 28668-a-DG

Supreme Court of South Dakota

August 7, 2019

ARGUED MARCH 26, 2019

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT LINCOLN COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE DOUGLAS E. HOFFMAN Judge

JAMI J. BISHOP KIMBERLY J. LANHAM of Johnson Janklow Abdallah & Reiter, LLP Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellant.

PAUL H. LINDE MICHAEL J. SCHAFFER of Schaffer Law Office, Prof., LLC Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellee, Sioux Empire Pit Bull Rescue, Inc.

MELANIE L. CARPENTER ALEXIS A. WARNER of Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith, P.C. Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendants and appellees, Susan Tribble-Zacher & Harry Podhradsky

GILBERTSON, Chief Justice

[¶1.] Darlette Mae Ridley was attacked and injured by a dog while walking in a state campground. The dog was a pit bull type belonging to Sioux Empire Pit Bull Rescue, Inc. (SEPR) and in the care of Susan Tribble-Zacher and Harry Podhradsky at their campsite. Ridley sued SEPR, Zacher, and Podhradsky claiming they were liable for her injuries. SEPR, Zacher, and Podhradsky filed separate motions for summary judgment, which the circuit court granted. Ridley appeals. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2.] On the morning of August 9, 2015, Ridley and her family were camping at Newton Hills State Park in Lincoln County, South Dakota. At approximately 7:05 a.m., Ridley decided to take a walk around the campground. Zacher and Podhradsky were also camping at Newton Hills with their son, their dog, and a pit bull named Meadow. At the time, Zacher and Podhradsky were dog sitting for Meadow. As Ridley walked by Zacher and Podhradsky's campsite, she claimed she heard a loud bark and turned to see Meadow tethered to a tree.

[¶3.] Ridley claims she saw Meadow rear up on her hind legs and lunge toward Ridley. As Meadow lunged, her dog collar unexpectedly broke, and she began to run free toward Ridley. Meadow knocked Ridley down onto the gravel road and allegedly bit her. Zacher called out for Meadow to return back to her and Meadow obeyed. The parties agree that Ridley did nothing to incite or provoke the attack.

[¶4.] As a result of the attack, Ridley sustained cuts on her elbow, left ring, and pinky fingers, and experienced pain in her lower back. Podhradsky assisted Ridley to a nearby bench and then into a campground bathroom to clean blood off of Ridley's hand. Zacher then helped Ridley back to Ridley's campsite and Ridley's husband drove her to the emergency room. Ridley suffered a fractured finger that required cleaning and stiches. She incurred medical expenses and lost wages as a result of the dog attack. She eventually sued SEPR, Zacher, and Podhradsky claiming they were liable for the injuries she sustained.

[¶5.] At the time of the attack on Ridley, Meadow was owned by SEPR. SEPR is an organization that accepts pit bulls from animal shelters, situations of abuse and neglect, and dog fighting rings. The organization does not have its own physical location, so rescued animals are placed with foster providers until a permanent home for the animals can be located.

[¶6.] Meadow was picked up by the Sioux City Humane Society sometime before July 2014. SEPR later took possession of Meadow and placed her with Jennifer Praske, a foster provider in Worthing, South Dakota. Meadow stayed with Praske from July 2014 to December 2014. SEPR then transferred Meadow to live with Desiree and Jon Adams in Platte, Nebraska. On March 1, 2015, when the Adams were attempting to introduce Meadow to their family dog, a fight ensued and both dogs were injured. In April 2015, Meadow was placed with Heather Boon, where she remained up until right before the attack on Ridley.

[¶7.] Shortly before the attack, Boon wanted to go out of town, so she notified SEPR to find temporary foster providers for Meadow. SEPR arranged for Zacher and Podhradsky to act as Meadow's temporary caregivers. Zacher and Podhradsky had previously dog sat Meadow twice and had experience raising, fostering, and dog-sitting pit bulls. On July 31, 2015, Boon brought Meadow to Zacher and Podhradsky's home. The pair were scheduled to take care of Meadow until Saturday, August 8, 2015. However, Boon contacted Zacher to notify her that her trip had been extended and that Boon would not return home until Sunday, August 9, 2015. Zacher and Podhradsky had already made plans to camp overnight at Newton Hills so they decided to take Meadow with them.

[¶8.] The parties disagree as to whether Zacher and Podhradsky violated SEPR's policy by bringing Meadow with them to camp at Newton Hills. SEPR's President, Rachel DeZell Leighton, testified in a deposition that SEPR requires that each animal undergo a two-week shutdown period after they are transferred to a new foster home. The two-week shutdown period requires that the new caregivers segregate a dog and bond the dog to only one caregiver.

[¶9.] During the two-week shutdown, a dog is kept separate from other animals and prohibited from leaving the caregiver's home or yard. Leighton testified that "[t]he two-week shutdown allows an animal to decompress and begin to bond with a handler. It builds the relationship of trust" between the dog and the new foster care provider. Ridley claims that Zacher and Podhradsky violated SEPR's policy because they did not perform a two-week shutdown period with Meadow before bringing her to the Newton Hills campground. Zacher, Podhradsky, and SEPR claim that the two-week shutdown policy was optional in this situation, [¶10.] After Ridley sued SEPR, Zacher, and Podhradsky for her injuries, SEPR, Zacher, and Podhradsky filed separate motions for summary judgment arguing that there were no disputed material facts and that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ridley resisted the summary judgment motions. A hearing was held on June 7, 2018. The circuit court granted the motions for summary judgment, holding that there was no evidence showing a lack of reasonable care on the part of SEPR, Zacher, or Podhradsky. Ridley appeals, asking this Court to determine issues that can be consolidated into the question of whether the circuit court erred in granting SEPR, Zacher, and Podhradsky's motions for summary judgment.

Standard of Review

[¶11.] "In reviewing a grant or a denial of summary judgment under SDCL 15-6-56(c), we must determine whether the moving party demonstrated the absence of any genuine issue of material fact and showed entitlement to judgment on the merits as a matter of law." Nicolay v. Stukel, 2017 S.D. 45, ¶ 16, 900 N.W.2d 71, 77-78 (quoting Gades v. Meyer Modernizing Co., 2015 S.D. 42, ¶ 7, 865 N.W.2d 155, 157-58). "We view the evidence most favorably to the nonmoving party and resolve reasonable doubts against the moving party." Id. (quoting Gades, 2015 S.D. 42, ¶ 7, 865...

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