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Bright v. Maznik

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 20, 2017

WHITNEY L. BRIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ROMAN MAZNIK and NATALYA K. MAZNIK, husband and wife, Defendants-Respondents, and JAMES R. THOMAS and KATHERINE L. THOMAS, Defendants.

         2017 Opinion No. 69

         Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Thomas J. Ryan, District Judge.

         District court judgment, affirmed.

          Evans, Keane, Boise, for appellant. Jed W. Manwaring argued.

          Montgomery Law Offices, Boise, for respondents. Gary L. Montgomery argued.

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         Whitney L. Bright appeals from the Canyon County district court's grant of summary judgment to Roman and Natalya Maznik. The Mazniks are property owners who leased an apartment to James and Katherine Thomas, owners of a Belgian Shepherd. When Bright visited the Thomas' apartment in an effort to collect on a debt, the Thomas' dog attacked her. Bright then lodged a complaint against the Mazniks, alleging various tort claims arising from the attack. The district court granted the Mazniks' motion for summary judgment, and we now affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Mazniks are owners and landlords of residential rental properties located in Canyon County. In November 2005, the Mazniks hired Cashflow Management (Cashflow) to manage their rentals. Cashflow, as property manager, ensures that the Mazniks' rentals are habitable, handles everyday maintenance, solicits and screens prospective tenants, leases the rentals, and makes monthly, in-person visits to the rentals to collect rent.

         In August 2008, the Thomases applied to lease an apartment from the Mazniks. On their rental application, the Thomases disclosed that they had a "B. Shepherd"[1] that weighed thirty-five pounds. Cashflow reviewed the Thomas' rental application. As part of that review, Cashflow contacted the Thomas' former landlord to ask about "dog issues"-i.e., whether the dog was a problem, had damaged the property, or ever caused excessive noise. Cashflow could not recall the details of that conversation, but apparently no concerns arose because Cashflow approved the Thomas' application. When concerns did arise in the application review process, Cashflow explained that those issues were noted on the application and rejection would follow.

         Cashflow routinely rented to dog owners, and so the Thomas' dog did not cause concern. Cashflow explained that it rented to dog owners because:

[W]e have gone [sic] through a phase in our company where we did try to put people who didn't have pets in. And [we] found that after the fact people move pets in, anyway. Then it was difficult to collect on pet deposits and it was difficult to enforce the lease. And to avoid having that headache we became more liberal.

         To be sure, as a property management company, Cashflow "honor[ed] what the owners want." But the Mazniks were flexible and "left that judgment up to [Cashflow]."

         Before January 21, 2014, neither the Mazniks nor Cashflow ever received any complaints about the Thomas' dog. That day, however, the Thomas' dog attacked Bright when she visited the Thomas' apartment concerning a debt Mr. Thomas owed. The Thomas' dog lunged past Mr. Thomas when he answered the door, biting Bright on her arm and leg. Bright eventually retreated inside the Thomas' apartment until Mr. Thomas could place the dog under control.

         In September 2014, Bright sued the Thomases and the Mazniks, alleging various tort claims. She obtained a $25, 000 default judgment against the Thomases. The Mazniks, by contrast, moved for and obtained summary judgment. Bright brings this timely appeal.

         II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

         1. Did the district court err by granting summary judgment to the Mazniks on ...


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