Dog bite cases are very complex, especially when landlords are involved. Holding landlords responsible is not easy, but a negligent landlord who ignores dangers on their property may be financially responsible for failing to protect you. Read on for more information about dog bite landlord liability under dog bite law in Maryland.
Dog Bite Landlord Liability Case Law
Whether a landlord has a duty to protect his tenants or their guests from a vicious dog depends on the facts of the case. The court generally recognizes dog bite landlord liability when dangerous conditions exist in a common area under the landlord’s control. Except in certain cases of dog bite negligence and strict liability in Maryland, the landlord is not liable for hazardous conditions that appear after the tenant takes possession of the property.
In the 1998 case Matthews v. Amberwood, the court deliberated about whether an apartment landlord should have protected a guest who was injured by a dangerous dog in a tenant’s apartment. The landlord knew that the tenant kept a pit bull in violation of the “no pets” clause of the lease, but took no steps to prevent the danger. The court decided that the landlord was responsible for protecting a visitor, especially if they knew about a vicious dog on the premises and were able to protect tenants from it.
In the case of Shields v. Wagman, the court held the shopping center landlord liable when a guest was attacked in a common area by a pit bull, which was owned by a tenant and kept on the premises. In Matthews, the court had decided that the landlord retained control over the dog even though the attack occurred in a private area, simply because the lease included a “no pets” eviction clause. The landlord could have informed the tenant that she was in violation of the lease, told her to get rid of the aggressive dog, or taken legal action.
These two cases did not rely on landlord control over common areas. Rather, the court established dog bite landlord liability because the landlord allowed the tenant to stay on the premises even though they were aware of a danger. If the landlord could have done something about the danger and failed to do so, they are responsible.
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What Matters Most In Dog Bite Cases
Many people wonder: Does dog breed affect liability in Maryland? What about the conditions of the attack? Dog bite landlord liability for tenants and guests depends on the specific facts that are presented in the case. Landlords are not always held liable for hazardous conditions on their property, but there are many exceptions to this rule.
The court in Shields held the landlord of a strip shopping center liable for injuries to a business guest. The individual was attacked on a common area by a pit bull that belonged to a tenant and was kept on the premises. In the Matthews case, the court decided that the landlord retained control over the dog even though the attack occurred in a private area. This was because the lease included a “no pets” clause that should have allowed the landlord to evict the tenant and their dog. In fact, the landlord had many options: inform the tenant that they were violating the lease, forcing them to get rid of the dog, or taking legal action. In this case, the landlord did nothing at all.
These two cases show how complex it can be to establish dog bite landlord liability. Unfortunately, the landlord of a property may have been the only person who is able to prevent these hazardous conditions. When they fail to do so, people are often hurt.
It is critical that you contact an experienced dog bite attorney in Maryland so that you can protect yourself against any representative of the landlord or the dog owner’s insurance company that will get involved when they get notice of the dog bite. Even if you know the dog owner or the landlord, it is their insurance company that will be defending a potential case, and rest assured that they will not be trying to help you!
Establishing dog bite landlord liability can be challenging. That’s why it’s so important to contact the experienced dog bite attorneys at Zirkin and Schmerling Law, who will give your case the time, attention, and aggressive representation that you deserve. If you believe a landlord may be at fault in your dog bite case, contact one of our experienced attorneys at 410-753-4611.