South Dakota justices split over case on pit bull’s attack

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Supreme Court released a decision Thursday where three of the five justices agreed people caring for a pit bull couldn’t have foreseen the dog would bite a woman walking in a public park.

Chief Justice David Gilbertson wrote the majority’s decision that was joined by Justice Mark Salter and Justice Steven Jensen.

They said Circuit Judge Douglas Hoffman correctly dismissed the lawsuits Darlette May Ridley brought against defendants Susan Tribble-Zacher, Harry Podhradsky and Sioux Empire Pit Bull Rescue Inc.

Retired Justice Glen Severson and Justice Janine Kern dissented. They said a jury should have been allowed to decide the case.

The incident occurred August 9, 2015, in Newton Hills State Park in Lincoln County. The pit bull, named Meadow, broke from her collar at a campsite and bit Ridley, who was on a morning walk, causing various injuries that caused the woman to visit an emergency room and fracturing one of the woman’s fingers.

Ridley incurred medical expenses and suffered lost wages as a result of the attack, the decision acknowledged.

Ridley claimed there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find in her favor against the defendants, in part because pit bulls are known to be dangerous.

Chief Justice Gilbertson said the defendants had law on their side.

“The law in South Dakota does not support any such breed-specific standard of care. We instead recognize that ‘[d]ogs . . . are presumed tame and docile and the burden is on [a] plaintiff[] to show otherwise,'” Gilbertson wrote, citing the 1997 case Tipton v. Town of Tabor. “Here, Ridley has failed to show that Meadow was the kind and character of dog which would make it foreseeable that Meadow would attack a human.”

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