SARAH JANE GROVES AND GEORGE HIBERT GROVES, JR. APPELLANTS
JOHN WOODS, SR., HAZEL J. WOODS, TERRY HARRIS AND TAMMY L. HARRIS APPELLEES
FROM BOYD CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE GEORGE W. DAVIS, III, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 14-CI-00810
FOR APPELLANTS: Elaina L. Holmes Flatwoods, Kentucky
FOR APPELLEES: J. Stan Lee Lexington, Kentucky
BEFORE: CLAYTON, STUMBO,  AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.
Jane Groves and George Hibert Groves, Jr. appeal the Boyd
Circuit Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of
landowners, John Woods, Sr. and Hazel J. Woods, and horse
owners, Terry Harris and Tammy L. Harris (hereinafter
collectively the "Appellees"). This action arises
from an injury incurred by Sarah that was allegedly caused by
a horse on the Woods' property. Hank, the horse, is owned
by the Harrises who boarded the horse part-time on the
Woods' property. The Groves also appeal the trial
court's denial of their motion to alter, amend, or vacate
the order of summary judgment.
careful consideration, we affirm.
Groves and her husband, George Groves, entered a verbal lease
with John and Hazel Woods to rent a home with an abutting
yard in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. However, the parties disagree
about whether the Groves rented the house and yard or the
whole property. The Appellees maintain that they only rented
the house and yard, but the Groves claim to have rented the
entire property. It was not until after the Appellees'
motion for summary judgment that the Groves insisted that
they had rented the entire property.
Groves and their three children moved into the home on
December 30, 2013. Adjacent to the home and yard, the Woods
had a fenced pasture with a barn. On this portion of the
Woods' property, the Harrises boarded Hank, a Tennessee
Walking Horse, part-time. He spent time on the pasture and in
Harrises described Hank as a gentle, trained horse that
enjoyed being ridden. He was taken to church picnics, fall
festivals, and birthday parties to perform tricks and give
rides. The Harrises knew of no occasion where he kicked
another horse or person. The horse was used to being around
other people and exposed to loud noises and multiple stimuli.
to the Woods, contrary to the Groves' assertions, they
specifically discussed the horses, barn, and pasture with the
Groves. Hazel Woods claimed to have informed them that they
were only renting the house and the yard. Further, because
Hazel did not want them going near the horses, she told them
to keep the children away from the barn and out of the
pasture. John Woods also said that he told George about the
horses and not to go into the pasture. George agreed that the
family would stay off the pasture. It was a verbal lease and
an informal arrangement since the Woods' son was married
to Sarah's sister. Sarah, in her deposition, said that
they were helping the Woods out by renting the home.
the Groves disagree that they were told to stay off the
pasture and away from the horses. Yet, in their depositions,
both Sarah and George admitted knowing horses were on the
pasture. They both saw a horse, Hank, on the property the day
after they moved into the house.
January 9, 2014, nine days after moving in, Sarah and the
children went for a walk to see an old graveyard. They cut
through the pasture to get to the site. It is disputed
whether Sarah and the children crossed a fence into the
pasture where the horses spend time. The Appellees believe
that Sarah and the children crossed onto the pasture, but
Sarah claimed that they never crossed onto the pasture or
traversed the fence. Sarah maintained that Hank was running
loose, chased her, and stomped her thigh after she fell.
Countering her assertion, the Appellees highlight that in her
description of the accident, she stated she walked up a hill
to get to the graveyard. The hill is on the pasture side of
the fence, not the yard. Therefore, they maintain that the
injury occurred on the pasture. In fact, Sarah and the
children in their depositions talked about the injury
occurring on a hill.
October 10, 2014, Sarah filed the complaint against the Woods
and the Harrises alleging negligence on their part. George
filed a separate suit seeking damages for a loss of
consortium. His suit was consolidated with the negligence
close of discovery and after the depositions, the Appellees
made a motion for summary judgment. Sarah objected to the
summary judgment motion. In her written objection, she
averred that they had rented the entire property from the
Woods, and thus, was in possession of the whole property.
This claim, sometime into the litigation, changed the status
of Sarah from a trespasser to a tenant. A week later, Sarah
also supplemented the summary judgment response outside the
time permitted by the trial court. In the supplement, Sarah
argued that the Appellees also violated the cattle-at-large
statute (Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 259.210).
hearing was held where the Appellees argued, based on
Sarah's new assertion that she was a tenant not
trespasser, the previous issues before the trial court were
moot since the matter now involved landlord-tenant law. The
Appellees asserted that under landlord-tenant law, they owed
no duty to Sarah because they had informed her about the
horse prior to the alleged injury.
order granting summary judgment, the trial court noted that
the Groves attempted to argue one theory under the complaint
and then pivoted with new facts after the summary judgment
motion. The trial court believed that changing the theory of
the case and the underlying facts ran afoul of Kentucky
jurisprudence. Additionally, the trial court held that
Sarah's argument that KRS 259.210 was applicable was