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Grammer v. Lucking

Supreme Court of Nebraska

January 15, 2016

JOLEEN GRAMMER AND TERRY GRAMMER, APPELLANTS,
v.
DARREN LUCKING AND CORY LUCKING, APPELLEES

Appeal from the District Court for Jefferson County: PAUL W. KORSLUND, Judge.

Rodney J. Rehm, of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, P.C., L.L.O., for appellants.

Susan K. Sapp and Shawn D. Renner, of Cline, Williams, Wright, Johnson & Oldfather, L.L.P., and, on brief, Robert M. Kinney-Walker, for appellees.

HEAVICAN, C.J., CONNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, and STACY, JJ. WRIGHT and MCCORMACK, JJ., not participating. MILLER-LERMAN, J., concurring.

OPINION

Page 388

[292 Neb. 476] Heavican, C. J.

INTRODUCTION

This is a strict liability suit for damages sustained when two dogs belonging to Darren Lucking and Cory Lucking ran toward Joleen Grammer and Terry Grammer. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Luckings, and the Grammers appeal. We reverse, and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

On July 16, 2013, the Grammers went for a walk that led them in the direction of the Luckings' home. Two of the Luckings' dogs were in the unfenced yard, without supervision. One dog was on a chain, and the other was unrestrained.

When the Grammers were fewer than 20 feet away from the Luckings' yard, the dogs ran in their direction, barking and growling. Terry stepped in front of Joleen and attempted to stop the dogs from approaching. The restrained dog reached the end of its chain, but the unrestrained dog ran past Terry and toward Joleen.

As Joleen backed away from the dogs, she stumbled and fell, hurting her elbow. Neither of the dogs ever bit, scratched, or otherwise touched the Grammers. After a few seconds, Darren came out of his house and called the dogs back inside.

The Grammers filed this action under Neb. Rev. Stat. ยง 54-601(1) (Reissue 2010), which imposes liability upon dog owners for damages caused by their dogs " killing, wounding, injuring, worrying, or chasing any person or persons." The Luckings moved for summary judgment. Reciting one of the three alternative definitions we have previously given to " chase," the district court stated that to survive the motion for summary judgment, " the evidence must show that the dogs were chasing Jole[en] in order to catch or harm her." The district court hypothesized no other facts that would defeat the motion, nor did it consider whether the dogs had [292 Neb. 477] " ...


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