Liability in Dog Bite Cases – Persons Other than the Dog Owner
In order to increase your chances for full compensation, your dog bite lawyer will seek to identify all persons or entities that may be financially liable for your injury. Persons other than the dog owner may be liable either because the dog was under their control at the time of the injury or because the dog was on their premises at the time of the injury. A person or entity, in its role as transferor, may also be subject to dog bite liability as a result of a misrepresentation or failure to disclose information to a new owner.
In addition to the dog’s owner, other potential defendants could include:
Dog’s Keeper: A keeper is generally defined as a person or entity that harbors, protects or shelters the dog. If the dog was under the control of a keeper (other than the owner) when the bite happened, then the keeper may also be held liable for the victim’s injuries based on either common law or a negligence-based theory. A keeper may include a friend who was house-sitting or pet-sitting for the weekend, or the kennel that was caring for your dog while you were on vacation.
Landlords: Both commercial and residential landlords may face liability for dog bite attacks on their property. Landlords may also be liable for dog bite attacks occurring outside of their property.
- Commercial Landlords: In California, a commercial landlord has a duty to exercise reasonable care in the inspection of his property and to remove any dangerous condition. A commercial landlord will be responsible for the attack if he knew, or through reasonable inspections would have known, the dog was dangerous and usually on the premises.
- Residential Landlords: Unlike commercial landlords, residential landlords in California have no duty to inspect the property. In order to establish the landlord’s liability, the victim’s attorney needs to show that the landlord had (a) actual knowledge or actual notice of the dog and its dangerous propensities and (b) the legal right to remove the dog from the premises.
- Landlord Liability for Off-site Dog Bite Attacks: A landlord might have to pay compensation if a dog bite attack happened off his property if the dog escaped because of broken or deficient fencing.
Day Care Centers: In California, a day care provider will be held liable for children’s dog bite injuries even if the parents signed a waiver releasing the day care provider from negligence claims. Courts found the release to be void as against public policy.
Homeowners’ Association: A homeowners’ association has a duty to keep its common areas safe and to warn residents and visitors of known dangerous conditions. Dog bite liability may therefore be imposed on the association if it allowed a dog it knew to have dangerous propensities to wander on the common areas controlled by the association.
Shelters, Adoption Agencies, Rescue Organizations, and Sellers: Under certain circumstances, the transferor of a dog may be liable to the new owner for dog bite injuries if it places a dog that it (a) knows is dangerous or has dangerous propensities or (b) misrepresents as being safe when it has no reasonable basis for making such a representation.
After a dog attack, you should call a lawyer who can guide you through the legal process and help you pursue your claim. It is essential to obtain representation as early as possible so that your dog bite lawyer can preserve all potential evidence and build the strongest case possible on your behalf.