Narciso’s Case

No special relationship between dog owner and child walking on sidewalk. Thus, dog owner did not owe a duty of care to child as a matter of law

Really smart class at Harvard Law School. Professor Jon Hanson, invited me back to HLS to talk with his 1L Section 6 Torts class. On October 13, 2023, I presented a study of “Narciso’s Case.” A heart-breaking dart out/animal liability case which occurred in Commerce City, Colorado, in August 2013.

Professor Hanson wrote afterwards, “I want to thank you in writing for all you did to join us and for another stellar and unforgettable presentation.”

In the case Russell Hatten and I represented Narciso. He was then 8-years-old. As Narciso was walking to a nearby playground, two vicious pit bulls were about to attack him by getting over a fence. Scared for his life, Narciso darted out into the street and was run over by a passing van. He was severely injured. We sued the van owner for negligence, and the dog owner. This complex litigation went to the Colorado Court of Appeals, Lopez v. Trujillo,
2016 COA 53, 399 P.3d 750 (2016). On Certiorari, the case went to the Colorado Supreme Court. N.M. by and through Lopez v. Trujillo, 2017 CO 79, 397 P.3d 370 (2017). There, the Court discarded the COA reasoning on foreseeability and instead revived the “misfeasance/nonfeasance” doctrine to support its determination against Narciso on the animal liability claim.

The presentation is supported by a homework assignment to read the Court of Appeals Decision, including the dissent. Then the students were required to answer 7 questions concerning their analysis of the majority and dissenting opinions, from the standpoint as if they were reviewing the COA opinion for Certiorari review; whether they would grant cert.; And next, how would they rule were the case before them as COS justices.

The student responses were furnished to me 24 hours prior to the presentation. The responses points for discussion with the class members.

The presentation was supported by a 53 slide .ppt including contextual statistics and policies derived from NHTSA statistics for pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Additionally, statistics and factual materials regarding pit bull behaviors and incidents throughout the United States. Relevant black letter law was then presented.

Core factual documents from Narciso’s case, including depositions, evidence, photographs, are at the heart of the presentation, along with video from the actual COS and COA oral arguments.

The inspiration for me, along with the privilege of working with Hanson and his team of teaching fellows, came from the thoughtful and engaged students with their remarks, questions, participation and sense of social justice.

Thanks owed as well to Jon Asher, HLS ’71, Emeritus Director of Colorado Legal Services. Also to Denver County Court Judge Alfred Harrell, and his mentee Anna Lodge (DU Sturm 2L) who tested the Beta version.

And finally, deep thanks to Narciso for his own participation. He is now age 18.