Dog bites and dog attacks often result in major injuries. As Rhode Island dog bite lawyers, we are often asked if a landlord or property owner can be held liable for a dog attack. Typically, the responsibility for injuries caused by a dog attack rests on the dog owner. However, there are certain situations when a landlord could be held liable.
Rhode Island has a strict liability statute when it comes to dog bite cases. This means the owner or the dog’s keeper is liable for any injuries and damages the dog causes. So, if the attack occurs when the dog is in the care of someone other than its owner, such as a dog walker, the owner of the dog walker could be held liable for the attack. The strict liability applies only if the injured person was legally present in the location where the bite occurred and if the injured person did not provoke the dog.
When is the Landlord Liable?
In a vast majority of cases, if a dog bites someone, typically, the dog’s owner is solely responsible for the injuries and damages caused. However, here are examples of some situations where a landlord can be held liable:
Knowledge of the danger: If the landlord had knowledge that a dog was dangerous, he or she could be held liable. For example, if the dog had bitten or attacked someone previously and the landlord had knowledge of the attack, then the landlord could be held liable for the injuries and damages caused to dog bite victims. This is particularly true if the property owner knew that the animal posed a danger but still allowed it to remain on the property.
However, if the landlord knew a dog was dangerous but did not have the ability to remove the dog, he or she cannot be held liable. For example, if the property owner tried to remove a dangerous dog from his property, but such a move was blocked by a court, then the landlord cannot be held financially responsible for a dog bite or dog attack that occurs, even if it occurred on his property.
Failure to remove the dog: In a situation where the landlord had knowledge that a dog was dangerous and had the ability to remove the animal but chose not to, the landlord could be held liable if the dog injured someone. For example, if a tenant signed a lease agreement stating that they would get rid of a dog that exhibited any type of dangerous or vicious behavior, the landlord should enforce the agreement.
If the landlord fails to follow through on the contract and the dog bites someone, the landlord could be held liable. This is because the landlord knowingly and willingly allowed a dangerous dog that was a threat to continue to live on the property.
Harboring an animal: If the landlord cares for a dog as if he or she owns the dog, then he or she will inherit the same liability as the dog’s actual owner if the dog injures someone. For example, if the landlord feeds the dog, takes it for walks and watches it when the owner is not around, he or she becomes a “de facto owner.”
Negligence: There are also situations where a property owner can be found negligent. For example, if a dog escaped a home or yard due to inadequate maintenance of the property and bites someone, there is a good chance that the property owner or landlord can be held liable. If the landlord knew the dog was aggressive and failed to replace or repair a section of a fence or wall causing the animal to escape and harm someone, the property owner can be held financially responsible for the damages caused as well.
Injuries and Compensation
Dog bites have the potential to result in major injuries ranging from lacerations and puncture wounds to broken bones, internal injuries and even limb amputations. Injured dog attack victims may be able to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of cosmetic surgery, rehabilitative treatments, psychological therapy, cost of ongoing treatment, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Our experienced Rhode Island dog bite lawyers have helped dog bite victims secure maximum compensation for their losses and have assisted in holding negligent dog owners and landlords accountable. Call us at 800-992-6878, or fill out an online contact form to find out how we can help protect your rights.