Estate of Sholberg v. Truman (Opinion on Application)Annotate this Case
Terri Sholberg died when the car she was driving hit a horse standing in the road. Diane Sholberg, as personal representative of her estate, sued Daniel Truman (the owner of the horse, which had escaped from its stall) and Robert and Marilyn Truman (the title owners of the farm that Daniel Truman operated). Other than being the title owners, defendants Robert and Marilyn Truman had nothing to do with the farm or the animals on it. The circuit court entered a default judgment against Daniel Truman, but granted summary judgment in defendants’ favor, concluding that they could not be held liable for a public nuisance because they were not in possession of the property. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed with regard to the public nuisance claim, holding that defendants’ ownership of the property from which the alleged nuisance arose was sufficient to allow a nuisance action against them. Plaintiff applied for leave to appeal with respect to an issue concerning violations of the Equine Activity Liability Act, and defendants filed a separate application for leave to appeal on the nuisance claim. The Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s application, and granted defendant's application, reversing reversed in part the Court of Appeals' judgment with respect to the public nuisance claim: defendants merely owned the property. Defendants never possessed or exercised any control over the property and had not even visited it in more than a decade. There was no evidence that defendants knew or had reason to know that Daniel Truman’s animals had been escaping the property when the accident happened. Because defendants did not control or possess the property or the horse, there was no basis for imposing tort liability on them for a public nuisance. "Daniel Truman was the person best able to prevent any harm to others, and given that defendants had resigned all charge and control over the property to him, he was the person exclusively responsible for the alleged public nuisance he created on the property."