Can a Landlord Be Held Liable in a Washington, D.C. Dog Bite Case?

One of the most important decisions any Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiffs must make early on in the process is which parties to name as defendants in the lawsuit. Failing to name all potentially liable parties can have a disastrous effect on the plaintiff’s case for several reasons. First, a plaintiff typically only gets “one bite at the apple” and cannot file a second case based on the same allegations. Second, if a named defendant can convince the judge or jury that an unnamed party bore responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries, the named defendant may escape liability entirely.

In Washington, D.C. dog bite cases, the owner of the animal that attacked the plaintiff should certainly be named as a defendant. However, depending on the surrounding circumstances, there may be additional parties, such as a landlord or property manager, who should be named. A recent case shows the type of analysis courts engage in when considering a dog-bite claim made against someone other than the animal’s owner.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was out walking her two small dogs when two larger dogs began attacked her animals. The plaintiff tried to intervene, but one of the larger dogs knocked her down to the ground and started attacking her. A neighbor called the police, who shot and killed both of the large dogs. The plaintiff was airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

As it turns out, the two dogs belonged to a family who lived a few blocks away. While the dogs were usually kept in the backyard, the gate latch was broken, allowing the dogs to escape. The plaintiff filed a case against both the dogs’ owners as well as the landlord. The plaintiff claimed that the landlord was negligent in safely maintaining his property.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim against the landlord based on the plaintiff’s failure to show that the landlord’s failure to repair the gate was the legal cause of her injuries. The court explained that the plaintiff needed to establish each of the elements of a negligence claim: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Here, the court agreed that the first two elements were met based on the landlord’s failure to replace the broken gate latch. However, to establish causation, the plaintiff needed to show that her injuries were a foreseeable result of the landlord’s negligence. In this context, the court held that the plaintiff needed to show that the landlord knew the tenants’ dogs’ dangerous tendencies. Absent such evidence, the court held the plaintiff could not show that the landlord’s negligence caused her injuries.

Have You Been Attacked by a Vicious Animal?

If you or someone you care about has recently been attacked by a dog, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. dog bite lawsuit. At the Washington, D.C. personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent injury victims and their families throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation call 410-654-3600 today.

More Blog Posts:

Can Family Members Be Named as Defendants in Washington D.C. Slip-and-Fall Cases?, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 4, 2019

Assumption of the Risk in Washington, D.C. Sports Injury Cases, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 19, 2019

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