HIRZEL LAW WINS SUMMARY DISPOSITION! COURT HOLDS THAT DOG WHO BIT NEIGHBORING CO-OWNER IS A DANGEROUS ANIMAL AND MUST BE REMOVED FROM THE CONDOMINIUM PREMISES.

Joe Wloszek and Katherine Hopkins of Hirzel Law, PLC represented Parkview at Orion Commons Condominium Association.

In Parkview at Orion Commons Condominium Association v Rouhan, the Oakland Circuit Court held that a dog who bit a neighboring co-owner is a dangerous animal that must be removed from the condominium premises. The Court determined, on the basis of the parties’ briefs and without oral argument, that the dog was dangerous, and granted an injunction in favor of the Association that required the dog be “immediately and permanently” removed from the premises. The Court further ordered that the Association is entitled to recover its costs and reasonable attorney fees.

Facts

The Parkview at Orion Commons Condominium Association (the “Association”) is responsible for managing, maintaining, and operating the Parkview at Orion Commons (the “Condominium”). The Condominium Bylaws provide in relevant part that “The Association of Co-Owners and all present or future Co-Owners . . . are subject and shall comply with the [Condominium] Act . . . and the mere acquisition . . . of any Unit . . . shall signify that the Condominium Documents are accepted and ratified.” Article 17. Further, the Condominium Bylaws provide that:

No animals or fowl (except household pets) shall be kept or maintained on any Unit. Any pets kept in the Project or property in the Project shall have such care and restraint as not to be obnoxious on account of noise, odor or unsanitary conditions. No savage or dangerous animals shall be kept. No animal may be permitted to run loose upon the Common Elements, and any animal shall at all time be attended by a responsible person while on the Common Elements . . . [Article 6, Section 6.38 emphasis added.]

Finally, the Condominium Bylaws provide that

In any proceeding arising because of an alleged default by any Co-Owner, the Association, if successful, shall be entitled to recover the costs of the proceeding and such reasonable attorneys’ fees (not limited to statutory fees) as may be determined by the court, but in no event shall any Co-Owner be entitled to recover such attorneys fees.

The trial court determined that the dog owned by the Defendant fit the definition of a dangerous dog, and that the arguments advanced by the defendant—whether the dog was on a leash, whether the dog was provoked, or whether the victim was trespassing—were irrelevant in light of the Court’s determination that the dog was “dangerous.”

Ruling

In finding that the dog was dangerous, the Court relied on the dictionary definition supplied by Merriam-Webster (which defines “dangerous” as “involving possible injury, pain, harm, or loss: characterized by danger” and “able or likely to inflict injury or harm.” See, e.g., Coates v Bastian Bros, Inc., 276 Mich App 498, 504; 741 NW2d 539 (2007) (“Dictionary definitions may be used to ascertain the plain and ordinary meaning of terms undefined in an agreement.”). The Court explained that the dog at issue was dangerous “because it is not only ‘able or likely’ to inflict injury or harm, but it has shown through its bite on [the neighboring Co-owner] that it . . . already has inflicted injury or harm.” The Court explained that because “[t]here is no genuine issue of material fact that [Defendant’s] dog bit [the neighboring Co-owner, therefore [the dog] meets the dictionary definition of a ‘dangerous’ animal.”

The Court then explained that the Association was entitled to injunctive relief. The Court explained that the injunctive relief was proper because “[t]here is no adequate remedy at law, there exists a real and imminent danger of irreparable injury, and justice requires that the [dog] be removed. The injury cannot be remedied by damages at law; there is no legal measurement of damages for the keeping of a dangerous animal in violation of the Condominium Bylaws.”

Conclusion

Cases that involve the enforcement of bylaws can be highly specific—and pet restrictions are one of the most discussed, debated, and reviewed provisions in Condominium Bylaws. In Parkview at Orion Commons Condominium Association v Rouhan, the Oakland Circuit Court granted an injunction in favor of the Condominium Association that required the removal of a dangerous dog that the Court agreed violated the Condominium Bylaws. Associations that have dangerous animal provisions should ensure that such restrictions are properly enforced to protect their communities.

Katherine R. Hopkins is an attorney with Hirzel Law, PLC and focuses her practice in the areas of appellate law, community association law, and civil litigation. Ms. Hopkins received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English (with a minor in Psychology), and a Teaching Certificate from Michigan State University. Prior to attending law school, Ms. Hopkins was a high school English teacher in Metro-Detroit. Ms. Hopkins obtained her Juris Doctor degree from The University of Michigan Law School, where she was a note editor for the Journal of Law Reform. Prior to joining Hirzel Law, PLC, Ms. Hopkins clerked for Chief Justice Pro Tem David Viviano on the Michigan Supreme Court for two terms, and was an Attorney in the Research Division of the Michigan Court of Appeals. She can be reached at (248) 478-1800 or [email protected].