Are Landlords Liable for Dog Bites?
Under California’s strict liability dog-bite laws, the dog’s owner is liable for any injuries caused by the dog. However, in certain cases, landlords can also be held liable for dog bites.
After being bitten, it is important to review every potential liable party with your attorney to make sure you get the maximum value for your case.
In What Circumstances Are Landlords Liable for Dog Bites?
In most cases, the tenant who owns a dog is responsible for any injuries his dog may cause to others, but these cases can overlap with premises liability when a landlord violated her duty of care. Property owners and their managers have a “duty of care” to keep tenants and guests on their property safe. Usually, we see this concept applied to slip-and-falls, negligent security, and other areas where the property owner had direct control over safety hazards.
With dog bites in California, however, a landlord can share liability with the dog’s owner when:
1. The Landlord Had Actual Knowledge of the Dangerous Animal.
If a tenant’s dog bites a person, causing bodily injury, the landlord would not be liable unless the victim could prove that the landlord knew about the dog and its dangerous propensities. California property owners have no duty to inspect their premises to determine if their tenants house a dangerous animal. Thus, a duty of care can only be imposed when the landlord had actual knowledge of the existence of a dangerous animal on the property.
2. The Landlord Had the Right to Remove the Dog.
Not only must the landlord have had actual knowledge of the dangerous animal, but the landlord must also have had the right to remove it from the premises. In some cases, a landlord cannot legally remove a dog. For example, the tenant may have a right to keep the dog under the terms of the lease. Or, the tenant may have had the dog declared an ESA (Emotional Support Animal). In those cases, the landlord could not legally remove the dog until the lease expired. If said dog bites someone in the meantime, the landlord cannot be held liable.
3. The Landlord Failed to Control the Property.
If a tenant takes his dog out on a leash and it bites someone, the tenant is liable for the victim’s resulting injuries, not the landlord, because he was “in control” of the dog. However, if a property owner fails to maintain a property and a dog escapes and bites someone as a result, the property owner can be held liable. For example, if a section of the fence in the backyard was damaged and the landlord failed to repair it, allowing the dog to escape, the landlord can be sued for damages if the dog attacks someone.
What Does Strict Liability Mean With Dog Bites?
Strict liability means a dog’s owner is liable for injuries caused by the dog – period. There is no escaping liability by claiming you had no knowledge or warning that your pet would act aggressively. Even if a dog has never bitten anyone before, its owner is responsible for resulting damages if the dog suddenly attacks. If you are bitten by a dog in California, you only need to show that it occurred while you were in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including on the dog owner’s property. There is no requirement to show that the owner failed to use reasonable care to prevent the dog from biting you.
After a serious dog attack, your best course of action is to speak with a California personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. At The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV, we are dedicated to upholding your rights and fighting for the compensation you deserve. Contact us at (562) 901-0840 or toll-free at (888) 454-5569 to find out how we can help.