Without consulting an attorney and anxious to open her new business, Rory decides to proceed with her doggy daycare establishment as a sole proprietorship. She identifies commercial space on Main Street, near the center of town, consisting of a a 1,200 square foot building with a large fenced-in yard in the rear. The property is available for leasing and, after meeting with the landlord, Rory enters into a commercial lease agreement. One of the terms of the lease reads that “landlord assumes no liability for any damage or injuries resulting from landlord’s failure to maintain the premises.”
Rory obtains the necessary license and permit, but declines to purchase pet daycare business liability insurance. She opens for business on a bitterly cold Monday morning, February 4, with five customers. Her first customer, Ms. Older, slowly walks in clutching her poodle. Ms. Older, who is quite elderly, appears confused about where she is and what she is carrying. She informs Rory, who?s behind the front desk, that she wants to have her “cat Fluffy seen by the vet.” Rory reminds Ms. Older that her facility is a canine daycare facility and that no veterinarian is on site. She asks Ms. Older if she would be interested in leaving the poodle in her care for the day, and Ms. Older quickly agrees. Rory informs her that she will first need to sign a customer contract which reads in part: “Customer acknowledges that pet daycare services are not without risk. Customer agrees to assume the risk of any damage or injury to customer or customer’s dog while on the premises. Customer hereby indemnifies, releases and holds Rory’s Doggy Daycare harmless from any claim for injuries or damage in any way arising out of or related to Rory’s Doggy Daycare business, regardless of fault.” After quickly glancing at the contract, Ms. Older signs it and tells Rory that she “wants Fluffy spayed” before she returns. Rory simply smiles in response. Ms. Older then gives her dog to Rory and slowly walks out.
Four other customers soon arrive with their dogs, contracts are signed, and Rory is alone with the five pets. The first hour passes relatively uneventfully. One of the larger dogs initially exhibits some signs of aggression (baring its teeth, and lunging at other dogs) but ultimately settles down. Around 9:30, Rory suddenly remembers that her friend, Tori, left a phone message the night before and she never called her back. Despite the frigid temperatures, Rory decides to let the dogs out into the fenced yard and proceeds to call Tori. The conversation continues for over an hour, but is interrupted when the owner of the business next door to Rory’s bursts through Rory’s front door. He angrily tells Rory that one of the dogs was able to get through an opening in the fence and bit a customer who had just exited his business. Rory quickly tells Tori that she?ll have to call her back, retrieves the aggressive dog from the next-door property, and brings the other four dogs back inside. She immediately notices that Ms. Older’s poodle is limping. She observes inflammation on two of the dog’s paws, and believes the animal may have sustained frostbite. Needless to say, Rory’s first day of business isn’t proceeding as she had hoped.
In a 3-4 page paper (3-4 pages of text, plus a cover and reference page with at least two sources cited and used), double-spaced, appropriate margins, and with APA formatting, please clearly and fully respond (i.e. provide meaningful explanation) to the following inquiries. What issue(s) may Rory have to contend with as a result of her decision to operate as a sole proprietorship? What is the significance, if any, of the term in the lease agreement that is referenced in the first paragraph of the fact pattern above? Describe any issues associated with a) the contract language and b) Ms. Older?s ?condition,? and what impact those issues may have if Ms. Older decided to bring a claim in connection with her dog?s frostbite injury. Discuss the ?hold harmless? provision in the customer contract, and what impact it might have if any of the other customers were ever to bring a claim for injury/damages. Do you think that the person who was bit on the neighboring property has a viable claim against Rory, her landlord, neither or both? Why?
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