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Hyatt v. Anoka Police Dep't

May 25, 2004

LENA M. HYATT, RESPONDENT,
v.
ANOKA POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL., APPELLANTS.



Anoka County District Court. File No. C7-03-43.

Considered and decided by Randall , Presiding Judge, Klaphake , Judge, and Forsberg , Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Where imposition of the plain language of a statute would lead to contradictory and absurd results, a court may look beyond the literal language to ascertain the intent of the legislature. 2. The legislature did not intend Minn. Stat. § 347.22 (2002), which imposes strict liability upon the owner of a dog for injuries caused to a person, to apply to police dogs.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Klaphake, Judge

Reversed

Dissenting, Randall, Judge

OPINION

After a police dog bit her during the arrest of her husband, respondent Lena M. Hyatt sued appellants, the Anoka Police Department and the City of Anoka (collectively referred to as the city), under the "dog bite" statute, Minn. Stat. § 347.22 (2002). The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that (1) the dog bite statute, which imposes strict liability upon the owner of a dog for injuries caused to a person, does not apply to police dogs; (2) the city is entitled to statutory immunity for its decision to own police dogs; (3) the city is entitled to vicarious official immunity for the actions of its police officer; and (4) the police department is not a legal entity subject to suit. The district court rejected the city's arguments and denied its motion for summary judgment. The city appeals.

Because the legislature did not intend to apply the dog bite statute to police dogs, the city is entitled to a grant of summary judgment and dismissal of the claim against it. We therefore reverse the district court's decision.

FACTS

On May 21, 2002, at approximately 2:00 a.m., four law enforcement officers arrived at a residence in St. Francis to execute two arrest warrants on respondent's husband, Andrew Hyatt, for controlled substance and fleeing a peace officer. The arrest team consisted of a police officer from St. Francis; two Anoka County Deputy Sheriffs, Paul Lenzmeier and Todd Diegnau; and City of Anoka Police Officer Mark Yates and his police dog, Chips.

The homeowner informed the officers that Andrew Hyatt was living with respondent in a barn behind the main residence. The officers approached the barn, knocked on the door several times, and called for Andrew Hyatt to step out. After receiving no response, the officers entered the building and came upon another man, Adam Zugschwert, who advised them that Hyatt was in the upstairs loft. By that time, the officers heard some movement upstairs.

The officer from St. Francis remained with Zugschwert. Officer Yates and Chips remained outside in case Andrew Hyatt fled, while Deputies Lenzmeier and Diegnau went upstairs. The deputies saw two individuals lying in bed underneath a blanket. They told the individuals to sit up and show their hands, but the individuals did not respond. Because of the two outstanding felony warrants and because the deputies were unable to tell what the individuals were holding in their hands, they had their guns drawn.

Lenzmeier pulled the blanket down and Andrew Hyatt jumped out of bed, yelling "Go ahead, just shoot me, shoot me!" Hyatt took a swing at Lenzmeier and missed; Lenzmeier pushed him away, towards Diegnau. Hyatt struck Diegnau in the ...


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