The prevalence of attacks on people by dogs is undeniable. The Center for Disease Control reported in 2015 that approximately one-third of claims submitted to homeowner insurance providers resulted from dog-related injuries. The total estimated volume of claims totaled a staggering $570 million. They revealed that over 4 million humans are bitten by dogs annually. In 2015, roughly 28,000 individuals underwent plastic surgery to correct damage inflicted by canines. What, if any, liability does the landlord have when a tenant's dog attacks and injuries someone on their property?
A Colorado Appeals Court heard the case of Wilson v. Marchiondo, where a victim sustained injuries from a Rottweiler in the backyard of a tenant occupied property. The Plaintiff brought suit against both the landlord and the tenants for negligence liability in this premises liability action. The trial court previously ruled for summary judgment in the landlord's favor, leading to the appeal.
Elements of Premises Liability
- Landowner is an agent or individual that possesses property and is responsible for conditions or actions conducted.
- The three categories in which a visitor present on someone's property include: a trespasser, licensee, or invitee. Each is owed a specific duty of care; in this case, the victim was determined a licensee.
- A licensee may recover for damages due to a landowner's failure to:
- Provide reasonable care regarding dangers that they knew of.
- Warn of dangers not ordinarily present, that they know of.
Wilson v. Marchiondo Case
The tenants owned a Rottweiler which resided with them at the leased property. The lease prohibited animals without the landlord's written approval. The landlord had a right to inspect the property and was responsible for repairs and maintenance, except for in cases of tenant misuse. It was presented that the landlord verbally agreed to allow the dog. The tenants posted a “beware of dog” sign on the premises. When painting contractors were to arrive, the landlord requested that the tenants place the dog in a separate room. There were complaints from neighbors about the dog barking and being aggressive. The landlord denied knowledge of the dog's presence prior to the attack on the victim.
The landlord did not owe the victim a duty of care, as he was not currently in possession of the property or the dog. The right to inspect the property and responsibility for maintenance is insufficient for imposing tort liability for damages among the tenants or others. They found no indication before the lease that the landlord had any contact with the dog, or that he was aware of the dog's vicious behavior. When a landlord transfers control of the property to a tenant, they are not in control or possession, thus not liable.
Contact a Denver Personal Injury Attorney
When a dog attack results in injuries to others, the owner of the animal may be responsible for financially compensating the victim(s). The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal has long been advocating for Colorado injury victims. Contact the office today for a consultation.