Quote of the Day - If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
The trial court and the court of appeal disagree over this one. The lower court thinks the owner of the property where the dogs were kept owes no duty of care to another invitee, and the appellate court thinks the owner should have kept the dogs locked up or otherwise chained up. Here's your chance to decide, based on the facts taken directly from the appellate court's opinion in Stephen Salinas v. Paolo Martin, here edited slightly for clarity and ease of reading:
Martin owned a home on McLaughlin Street in Richmond. In 2005, he embarked upon a remodeling project that included construction of a new foundation. Martin hired Burle Southard as general contractor for the project. Southard, in turn, hired Salinas as an employee to work on the construction project under his supervision for a period of three to four months. With Martin's approval, Salinas and Southard stored equipment and materials in the back yard and garage. Martin gave both permission to enter the yard "at any time" to retrieve equipment or materials they stored there.
Martin also hired two men, Armand and Greg Sanchez, to perform "weeding and gardening" work. The Sanchez's had two dogs, a pit bull terrier and a smaller pit bull, Labrador mix. Martin agreed that the Sanchezes could keep their two dogs loose in the fenced back yard and in a van they kept on the property. According to Martin, he did not see or hear the dogs attack, bite or appear aggressive with anyone; they seemed "tame and friendly" to him.
Southard expressed a different view of the dogs. He "saw a ferocious looking pit bull dog" in the Sanchezes' "very dilapidated looking van" in June or July of 2005. Southard confronted Martin about the dog. Martin explained that the "van had been broken into in the past, and the dog was there to guard the van." Southard communicated his fear and view to Martin that "he should certainly not have this pit bull" which had been trained as a " ‘guard dog' around this job site." He told Martin, "that's a pit bull,' meaning that the dog was dangerous." Southard thought Martin understood the concern that "the dog would attack someone."
On August 1, 2005, Salinas called Southard to report that he needed to retrieve "wood planks for scaffolding" that were stored in Martin's yard. Based on Martin's prior consent, Southard advised Salinas to "go ahead and pick up what he needed." The same day, Martin had specifically given Armand Sanchez permission to let the dogs "roam in the backyard." Martin left the house before Salinas arrived and was gone for four or five hours. He was not advised that Salinas "intended to visit" the residence that day. If Martin had known Salinas planned to enter the yard, Martin would have "warned him about the pit bull." Salinas had never seen the dogs at the residence before, so he entered the back yard through a 12-inch gap in a cyclone fence around the house. Once Salinas was about 10 to 12 feet into the yard at the corner of the foundation, the smaller mixed breed dog growled at him, then the pit bull attacked him. Salinas escaped through the gap in the fence, but the pit bull followed into the driveway and continued to repeatedly bite him until he managed to jump onto Martin's car.
So, based on these facts, who wins?