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Personal Injury Claims Against Landlords Due To An Attack By a Tenant’s Dog

Frank Buck, attorney at Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, recently obtained a substantial personal injury settlement from a landlord for Lori, a client, who was attacked by a tenant’s pit bull, while she was walking in the common area of an apartment complex. Dog attacks are a frequent cause of serious personal injury. The frequency has increased with the increasing numbers of people and pets in our growing suburban and urban areas. Some “pets” can become aggressive predators under the right circumstances. Many successful claims have been brought against the owners of aggressive dogs, such as pit bulls. Unfortunately, sometimes the owners of the dogs do not have assets, liability insurance or the liability insurance excludes dog attacks, which is usually the case with renters insurance.

In those cases occurring in apartment complexes, a claim may be made against the landlord/management company. However, liability of the landlord/management company depends upon the facts of each case. Two cases were brought in 2009 and 2010 against the landlords of the dog owners due to dog attacks. The trial judges dismissed both lawsuits before the cases could be presented to a jury. Both of the reported cases contain language that would appear to protect landlord/management companies in all situations. But, a closer look at the facts makes it clear that they have more limited affect. In both cases, the landlord was renting a single family residence. In one case, the dog attack occurred in the tenant’s yard. In the second case, the dog attack on a jogger occurred on a public street. In both cases, the landlord had no responsibility for the condition of the area where the attack occurred (public street and private yard).

There is a long history of cases holding that landlords are responsible for the condition of the common areas shared by two or more tenants. In Lori’s case, because of the landlord/management company’s general responsibility for the condition of the common areas, the trial court refused to dismiss the claim at the pleading stage. After additional discovery and mediation, Frank Buck was able to obtain a substantial settlement for her. Focusing on the unique factual situation in each case can make a difference.

Frank BuckFrank Buck practices in the areas of personal injury, family law, home owners associations, and domestic relations.

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