Maine Supreme Court dismisses dog bite case against owner's employer

By John Myers | Apr 18, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of Maine has affirmed a summary judgment dismissing a $75,000 personal injury lawsuit.

On April 6, the court affirmed a superior court summary judgment denying the plaintiff's request for damages in Amy L. Canney v. Strathglass Holdings LLC.

Amy Canney, alleged that her son, Nicholai Canney, was bitten by a dog owned by a maintenance worker and neighbor Eric Burns, who was employed by Strathglass Holdings. She alleged that both Burns and Strathglass were liable for the injury.

In this case, Burns was not a full-time employee of Strathglass and had only been contracted to work on-call for services as they were needed. While visiting Burns' home in a personal capacity, Burns' unrestrained dog allegedly attacked and bit Nicholai Canney, who suffered serious injuries. This happened despite the fact that Burns had not had any reason to suspect the dog might potentially be a danger to Nicholai Canney or anyone else. 

After the incident, Amy Canney filed a five-count complaint in the Superior Court on behalf of her son against Burns and Strathglass. According the complaint, "Burns possessed a dog with dangerous propensities; negligently failed to warn Nicholai about the dog; negligently failed to properly and reasonably secure the dog; and was at all pertinent times the agent, servant or employee of [Strathglass] and was maintaining the property for the benefit of [Strathglass] and in the course of its business."

Strathglass responded by filing a request for summary judgment, which the Superior Court granted. Canney's lawsuit against Strathglass was dismissed because there was no evidence that Burns was acting as an employee of the company during the incident.

Canney filed an appeal with the Maine Supreme Court seeking to overturn the summary judgment, asserting that the Superior Court was in error because the question of whether or not Burns acted within the scope of his employment is an issue of fact "properly reserved for the fact-finder." 

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