Judgement involving a 2006 dog chasing incident at Penny Pinchers of West Point was given to Penny Pinchers April 26 after the Mississippi Court of Appeals found the dog was not a threat to customers at the store.
On July 14, 2009, the Clay County Circuit Court awarded Lenetra Outlaw, a customer of Penny Pinchers, $130,000 after a jury found that a dachshund that chased Outlaw in the store and caused her injury was a danger to customers. Outlaw stated that once she entered the store and began walking down an aisle, the dog, Sophie, started chasing her, and Outlaw ran into the back freezer and tried to jump onto the freezer to avoid being bitten. Although she was not bitten, Outlaw, who had previous hip problems, injured her hip while trying to jump on the freezer and had to have surgery in 2006 following the incident.
Penny Pinchers argued that because the dog, which was brought to work everyday and kept behind the counter, never threatened or injured any customers at the store, the dog was not a threat and Outlaw could not prove that Sophie had previously been a danger at the store.
Although Penny Pinchers argued that there was no proof of Sophie ever being a danger to anyone and argued that she never exhibited any signs of danger while in the store, the Clay County Circuit Court denied their motion for a directed verdict, denied their motion for a new trial and gave Outlaw judgement. Penny Pinchers appealed.
The Court of Appeals found that for liability to be imposed on an owner of a dog, it must be proven that the dog was dangerous prior to the incident and it must be proven that the owner knew the dog was dangerous and could attack someone. The Court of Appeals agreed with Penny Pinchers that the dog owner had no reason to believe Sophie was a threat because she never barked at or attacked any customer, thus bringing the dog to the store each day created no danger to anyone at the store, they argued.
The Court argued that although the store had a duty to provide customers with reasonably safe conditions in the store, the store “is not required to keep the premises absolutely safe, or in such a condition that no accident could possibly happen to a customer. The owner is merely required to anticipate a result that is more apt to happen than not to happen, that is to say he must anticipate only such a result as is reasonably foreseeable as a probable consequence of his act.” Penny Pinchers did not anticipate the dog attacking or threatening anyone and believed it was safe to bring it to the store each day. The store was not required to protect customers from any possible injuries but only the injuries they could foresee, and the dog owner could not foresee a customer hurting himself from a dog chase and could not foresee the dog biting anyone. The judgement of the Clay County Circuit Court was reversed and rendered.