Roy v. Neibauer, 80-434

Decision Date09 February 1981
Docket NumberNo. 80-434,80-434
Citation191 Mont. 224,38 St.Rep. 173,623 P.2d 555
PartiesRob ROY, individually and as guardian ad litem of Heather Roy, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Walter NEIBAUER, Defendant and Respondent.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Regnier & Lewis, Great Falls, for plaintiff and appellant.

Jardine, Stephenson, Blewett & Weaver, and Thomas Boland, Great Falls, for defendant and respondent.

HARRISON, Justice.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment order entered by the District Court of the Eighth Judicial District. Plaintiff-appellant, individually and as guardian ad litem of his daughter Heather, sued defendant-respondent Walter Neibauer and defendant John Carlson for injuries received by Heather in August 1978. After extensive discovery, respondent Neibauer filed a motion for summary judgment. The District Court ruled in favor of that motion. Appellant filed a notice of appeal to this Court in September 1979. Roy v. Neibauer (1980), Mont., 610 P.2d 1185, 37 St.Rep. 897. We dismissed the appeal without prejudice because it was taken prematurely. Subsequently appellant dismissed all complaints against defendant John Carlson and again appealed the order of the District Court.

Walter Neibauer purchased a duplex on August 19, 1978. Two separate tenant families resided in the duplex pursuant to a preexisting lease, the Rob Roy family and the John Carlson family. The Carlsons owned a small cocker spaniel dog, and their lease expressly allowed them to maintain the dog on the premises.

On August 27, 1978, or eight days after Neibauer acquired the duplex, the Carlson dog bit Heather Roy in the front yard of the duplex on the Carlsons' lawn area. Rob Roy, as guardian ad litem for his minor daughter, filed a complaint against both the dog's owner and the owner of the duplex.

Two issues are raised on this appeal:

1. What duty, if any, did Neibauer, as owner and landlord of a duplex, owe to Roy, a tenant, for injuries received on the duplex's front lawn from a dog owned and harbored by another tenant, Carlson, when Neibauer purchased the duplex subject to the Carlson lease allowing Carlson to have the dog, and when the dog injured the Roy child before Neibauer could have legally taken any steps to remove the dog from the premises or to otherwise control the dog?

2. When are deposition expenses properly taxed as costs in favor of the prevailing party in summary judgment cases?

The District Court found that since Montana law and the Carlson lease required Neibauer to give Carlson at least fourteen days' notice to remove the dog, and since the dog injured the child only nine days after Neibauer's purchase, respondent, as a matter of law, had no duty to protect Roy from the dog since he had no legal remedy to remove or control the dog.

It is an elementary principle of law that before a claim for relief can be made against a defendant for negligence, the existence of a duty by the defendant to the plaintiff must be shown, along with the breach of that duty and a resulting injury. Kakos v. Byram (1930), 88 Mont. 309, 292 P. 909; Jackson v. William Dingwall Company (1965), 145 Mont. 127, 399 P.2d 236.

The existence of a duty is a matter of law to be determined by the court and not the jury. Kakos, supra. Here, the District Court decided as a matter of law that there existed no duty from respondent to appellant since respondent had no control over the dog or the right to dispose of the dog prior to the child's injury. We agree. Since there was no duty, there could be no negligence, and appellant's claim against respondent failed, regardless of whether respondent had knowledge of any dangerous propensities of the dog.

Respondent Neibauer purchased the duplex subject to a preexisting lease. The lease specifically allowed Carlson to own and harbor a dog. The lease further provided, in a paragraph designated as "Notice of Change," that respondent had to provide Carlson with thirty days' notice if respondent intended to change the terms of the lease. Respondent could only terminate the lease by...

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21 cases
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 7 Octubre 1998
    ...thus the landlord would have been unable to evict under Michigan law which requires a minimum of 30 days notice); Roy v. Neibauer, 191 Mont. 224, 623 P.2d 555, 556 (1981) (holding that landlord was not liable where dog injured child nine days after landlord-tenant relationship was establish......
  • Md. Cas. Co. v. Asbestos Claims Court
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • 25 Marzo 2020
    ...; Lopez , ¶ 18 ; Nautilus Ins. Co. v. First Nat’l Ins., Inc. , 254 Mont. 296, 298-99, 837 P.2d 409, 411 (1992) ; Roy v. Neibauer , 191 Mont. 224, 226, 623 P.2d 555, 556 (1981) ; Mang v. Eliasson , 153 Mont. 431, 434-39, 458 P.2d 777, 779-82 (1969) ; Kakos v. Byram , 88 Mont. 309, 317, 292 P......
  • Thornock v. State
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • 4 Noviembre 1987
    ...breach of the duty serves as a legal cause of another's injury, and that injury is an actual loss or damage. Roy v. Neibauer (Mont.1981), 623 P.2d 555, 556, 38 St.Rep. 173, 174; Pretty on Top v. City of Hardin (1979), 182 Mont. 311, 315, 597 P.2d 58, 60. If no duty exists there can be no ne......
  • Love v. United States Dept. of Agriculture, CV-85-146-GF.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Montana
    • 17 Noviembre 1986
    ...duty or obligation, there can be no actionable negligence. See, Krone v. McCann, 196 Mont. 260, 638 P.2d 397 (1982); Roy v. Neibauer, ___ Mont. ___, 623 P.2d 555 (1981); Green v. Hagele, 182 Mont. 155, 595 P.2d 1159 (1979). Accordingly, the Loves' complaint fails to establish the requisite ......
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