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.
The Court’s Opinion
The court concluded that neither the guests nor the landlord owed the plaintiff a duty of care. The court noted that a landlord a landlord’s duty to other than those inside the home is limited to situations where she consented to the dangerous activity or reasonably should have known that the activity would present an unreasonable risk of harm.
Here, the court held that there was no evidence suggesting that the landlord knew any of the tenants’ dogs were vicious or aggressive. In fact, the landlord’s testimony stated that she had known the tenants’ dogs for several years and never knew any of the dogs to be aggressive. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the landlord should have looked into the history of the tenants’ dogs before agreeing to let the tenants keep them at the house. The court explained that landlords do not have a duty to perform background checks on tenants’ pets.
For similar reasons, the court also held that the guests were not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Again, the court pointed to the testimony of the guests, which indicated that the animals were permitted around the guests’ children and had never caused a problem.
Have You Been Attacked by a Vicious Dog?
If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a Washington, D.C. animal attack, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. dog bite case. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience handling a wide range of personal injury cases across the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area, and know what it takes to succeed on their clients’ behalf. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Rejects Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Claim Against Big-Box Retailer in Recent Personal Injury Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, November 16, 2018
The Expert Witness Standard in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Cases, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2018