A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision dealt with an interesting dog bite case question. In Moore v. Gaut, 2015 WL 9584389 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) the plaintiff was bitten by the defendant’s Great Dane dog while the dog was in the Defendant’s own fenced in back yard. The plaintiff was actually on the other side of the fence when he approached the dog. When he came close the dog bit the plaintiff on the face. The trial court dismissed the case on summary judgment because there was no evidence that the dog had any prior propensity for attacks and there was no evidence of any actual prior attacks.
The plaintiff appealed this decision and argued that the large size of the Great Dane as well as the breed of the dog should cause the dog to be characterized as part of a “suspect class” of dogs. Further, that this, standing along, is enough to establish a genuine material fact as to whether the plaintiff should have known the dog had dangerous propensities. The Tennessee Court of Appeals was asked by the plaintiff to extend T.C.A. § 44-8-413 (a 2007 dog bite statute discussed below) and basically find that certain dogs are simply part of a “suspect class” of dogs because of their size, weight, strength, and general propensities.