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Messa V. Sullivan Court Of Appeals, 1965. 61 Ill.App.2d 386, 209 N.E.2d 872

5943 words - 24 pages

Handout #2
Brief Training Materials for Fall 2012

Messa v. Sullivan
Court of Appeals, 1965.
61 Ill.App.2d 386, 209 N.E.2d 872.

Betty Messa brought this action against James Sullivan, Helen Sullivan and the Keyman's Club, an Illinois not for profit corporation, to recover damages for the bodily injuries which she sustained as the result of being bitten by the defendants' dog. The complaint was based on two theories: first, a common law action for the keeping of a vicious animal and, second, an action based on what is commonly known as the "Dog Bite Statute" (Ill.Rev.Stat.l963, ch. 8, ...view middle of the document...

A labor union office occupied the third floor and the fourth floor was vacant. James Sullivan, the president of the Club and the manager of its building for over twenty years, and his wife, Helen, occupied the fifth floor as their residence. No other use was made of the fifth floor. The Sullivans' apartment contained a safe in which the receipts from the operation of the building were kept. In addition, the apartment contained the defendants' furniture, personal property and their three year old German Shepherd dog, named "K.C.", which was kept there to protect the Club's property in the apartment. The various businesses located in the building were advertised by signs on the exterior of the structure and on a building directory which was located in the building lobby. There were, however, no notices any-where that the fifth floor was used as a residence and not for commercial or business purposes.

All the floors of the building were served by an automatic elevator which could be reached on the ground floor by entering the building from Madison Street and by walking through the building lobby past the building office, which was located on the left of the lobby as one entered the building.

The plaintiff and the defendant, James Sullivan, testified concerning the events which occurred on the day in question. The plaintiff, who was a deaf mute, testified that at about two o'clock on the afternoon of June 12, 1961, she entered the defendants' building for the purpose of selling printed cards depicting the deaf and dumb alphabet. She said that this was the first time she had been in the building; that as she walked through the lobby she saw a woman at a telephone switchboard in the building office, that she entered the elevator and rode it to the fifth floor. When she got to that floor, the door on the elevator itself opened automatically. The plaintiff said that before she could step out of the elevator she had to manually open a second door which swung outward. She opened this door, which she said was heavy. She stepped out into the fifth floor hall and turned to the left where there was a door. At this point the defendants' dog ran out of the door and jumped on the plaintiff. She testified: " * * * the dog bit me on the leg, and he bit me on the body, and he bit me on the arm, and I tried to cover my face. And the dog was big, and the dog was bigger than I was, and he was on top of me, and three times he bit me." The plaintiff stated that she finally managed to get back to the elevator and to ride down to the lobby where she told the woman at the switchboard what had happened.

During her testimony, the plaintiff was shown plaintiffs exhibit number one, a picture of a sign reading in large letters:


She identified the exhibit as a picture of a sign which was posted on the manually operated elevator door which swung outward into the fifth floor hall. However, she...

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