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Demers v. Rosa

    Brief Fact Summary.

    A police officer, Edward Demers, filed suit against Steven Rosa (Rosa), a dog owner, based on claims of negligence after another police officer restrained Rosa’s dog and Demers fell beside the police car due to inclement weather.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Negligence is established when the risk endured by the plaintiff is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s conduct.

    Facts.

    Two police officers, Edward Demers (Demers) and Alton Cronin (Cronin), captured Steven Rosa’s (Rosa) dog on a snowy day after receiving complaints about the dog roaming freely. After Demers restrained the dog in the back of the police car, Cronin fell alongside the police car and sued Rosa for the injuries sustained in the fall. Cronin filed suit on claims of negligence due to Rosa permitting the dog to roam freely. The trial court held that it was reasonably foreseeable that a police officer would sustain injuries when responding to a complaint regarding a dog roaming freely, and granted judgment in favor of Demers. Rosa appealed.

    Issue.

    Can negligence be established if the risk endured is not within the foreseeable risk of harm created by the defendant’s negligent conduct?

    Held.

    No. Reversed and remanded.

    Discussion.

    Proximate cause is established when the risk of harm is a reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s negligent conduct. Although a police officer responding to a complaint regarding a roaming dog is within the scope of risk required by proximate cause, an officer becoming injured after a dog is restrained and without any provocation from the dog is not a foreseeable risk of negligently allowing a dog to roam. The direct cause of the Edward Demers’ (Demers) fall in this case was the weather, rather than actions taken by Demers to restrain the dog. Although it is reasonably foreseeable that a police officer would sustain injuries in attempts to restrain a dog in snowy conditions, it is not reasonably foreseeable that a police officer would sustain injuries in snowy conditions after the animal has already been restrained. Steven Rosa therefore cannot be held liable to Demers’ fall as a result of his negligence conduct.


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