Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania court rules landlord not liable for dog bite

When a Pennsylvania couple brought their ten-year-old grandson on a visit to see a dog, it did not turn out as planned. The dog, a pit bull, bit the child on the nose.

Dog bite injuries can be devastating. When such injuries happen due to a party's negligence, the victim can bring a personal injury claim to recover compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, and other damages.

In this case, the ten-year-old's mother filed a lawsuit against the dog's owner, the owner's boyfriend and lessee of the premises where the dog attack took place, as well as the landlord who owned the premises.

The mother believed that all of these parties were negligent for keeping a dangerous animal on the property or knowing of the dog's presence, thus allowing the dog bite to occur.

A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel recently decided not to hold the landlord liable for the boy's injuries. The judges agreed that there were not enough facts to know whether the dog was dangerous, concluding that the mother failed to prove that the landlord knew the dog was dangerous. As a result, the landlord did not have a duty to protect the child from the animal.

Landlord liability for dog bites

Landlords do have certain duties to protect the safety and property of their tenants from harm. In the case of injury caused by an animal belonging to a tenant, though, the landlord's duty is limited by their actual knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of the dangers posed by the animal.

While it may not be possible to hold the landlord accountable under the facts of this case, every situation is different. A landlord who knowingly allows a dangerous animal on rental property is less likely to be released from legal responsibility if the animal injures an innocent person.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pennsylvania landlord absolved in dog-biting case," Dan McCormick, May 14, 2012.

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