Court Finds Landowner Had No Duty to Prevent Lessee’s Horses from Escaping Leased Property

Earlier this month, the Vermont Supreme Court issued an opinion in a personal injury case affirming the lower court’s decision that a landlord who leased his property to a tenant was not liable when the tenant’s horse escaped and caused an accident.

In the case, Deveneau v. Weilt, the plaintiff was injured when he was involved in a single-car accident after crashing into a horse on the highway. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against both the horse’s owner as well as the man who leased land to the animal’s owner. In a pretrial motion, the landowner asked the trial court to dismiss the case against him, because he had nothing to do with the horses, and only leased the land to the horse’s owner. The trial court agreed that there was insufficient evidence to hold the landowner liable, and dismissed the case against him.

The plaintiff then appealed the decision to the Vermont Supreme Court. On appeal, the court noted that this was a case of first impression, meaning that the exact issue had never come up before. However, the court ultimately agreed with the landowner and affirmed the dismissal of the case.

The court pointed to several key facts as reasoning for its holding. First, the court considered the nature of the relationship between the landowner and the owner of the horse. The landowner leased a parcel of land to the horse’s owner, and also allowed the horses to graze in an adjacent field. The agreement between the two parties was that the tenant would be responsible for caring for the horses and making sure that the area was fenced in at all times. The landowner testified to not having any knowledge as to the state of the fence, and that when there was a problem with the fence he would not be notified; the horse’s owner would fix it himself.

There was also no evidence of exactly how the horse came to escape the fence. Officers responding to the scene noted that the fence seemed to be intact, although it was drooping in one section. It also appeared that the fence was electrified; however, there was nothing in the record as to whether it was turned on at the time of the accident. Given the evidence presented, the court determined that the landowner had no duty to the plaintiff, and thus the negligence action must fail. As a result, the plaintiff’s case will proceed to trial only against the horse’s owner.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Maryland car accident you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Although the court in the case discussed above ultimately determined that no duty existed on the part of the landowner, that will rarely be the situation in car accident cases. This is because all motorists have a duty to others whom they share the road with. To learn more about Maryland car accident cases, call 410-654-3600 to speak to a dedicated personal injury attorney who will take the time to listen to your case and help you determine what courses of action may be appropriate. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we are ultimately able to help you recover for your injuries.

More Blog Posts:

Court Keeps Out Plaintiff’s Expert Testimony in Birth Injury Case against Car Manufacturer, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published March 2, 2016.

Accident Victim’s Signed Release Encompasses At-Fault Driver and Subsequent Allegedly Negligent Physician, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published February 16, 2016.

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