Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case raising the important issue of third-party liability, which comes into play in many Washington, D.C. personal injury cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to determine if a landlord could be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog. Ultimately, the court concluded that, while a landlord may be responsible in some situations, under the facts presented in this case the landlord did not owe the plaintiff’s a duty of care.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was out walking his dog when several dogs ran out of a nearby house that was owned by the defendant. Evidently, the tenants had invited guests over for dinner. The guests arrived at the home before the tenants did, but had been told that the door would be unlocked and that they could wait inside the house.
As the guests opened the side door to the home, the tenants’ three dogs ran out of the house. The dogs attacked the plaintiff and his dog, resulting in the plaintiff sustaining a serious injury to his shoulder. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the tenants, the guests, and the landlord. The case against the tenants was resolved through a settlement agreement, and the case proceeded to trial against the guests and the landlord. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they did not owe the plaintiff’s a duty of care and thus could not be held liable for his injuries.