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Old 06-09-2008, 02:56 PM
 
Location: Vegas Baby
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If a renter has what's considered vicious dog (pit bulls) and they bite someone. Can the owner of the property be sued??
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Old 06-09-2008, 03:19 PM
 
Location: Rural Central Texas
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Great Question, and perhaps in a few hundred years we will have definitive case law to support a definite answer.


I am not a lawyer, but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn and watch a lot of Judge Judy and similar ilk. Disclosures out of the way, let us begin.


I would expect that if the property is unfenced, or has a fence that is in disprepair and the owner is aware that a potentially dangerous animal is in residence that a good case could be made that the owner's inaction contributed to any injuries and thus the owner could be considered negligent or at least contributory to the incident.

Even without any lack of action on the part of the owner to provide a secure boundry between the legally housed animal and the public, it is conceivable that someone will sue simply based on the depth of the pockets and include the owner. In that case, the owner will be forced to participate in the lawsuit, and potentially be financially harmed even if absolved of any duty or negligence. I would think the plaintif would have to demonstrate more than mere ownership to prove neglect or contributory fault, but many times judges do not act reasonably or in accordance with common sense.

So, in a nutshell, if the owner provides a property with a secure fence and warning signs, and maintains the fencing and signage with diligence, then their risk is minimal but not absolutely absolved. If any defect can be demonstrated that decreased the security of the public, due to the fact that the animal in question is of an infamous breed and is considered a known danger (regardless of the animals actual disposition), normal care would likely be considered inadequate and a higher duty for maintenance would be required to acquit the owner of negligence.

My own reaction would be to prohibit such animals in properties that posed a normal or higher exposure risk. I might permit them in rural properties, or perhaps a property with high security fencing with redundant perimeters (AK a kennel property with indivially fenced kennels surrounded by a fence area separated from the public with a border fence, for instance.
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Old 06-09-2008, 04:45 PM
 
Location: Apple Valley Calif
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Everything John said, plus..... Most home owners policies will not be in effect if you have any of several breeds of large dogs considered vicious, i.e., Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and the most feared and dreaded of all.... the Chihuahua....!!
I would look at my insurance policy, I bet it's mentioned in there. As much as I love dogs, I can't imagine anyone wanting all of the responsibility and liability that goes along with one of the dangerous breeds...

PS, just kidding about the chihuahua, that's what I have.....
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Old 06-09-2008, 06:06 PM
 
Location: CA
2,464 posts, read 6,142,885 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by movingon2vegas View Post
If a renter has what's considered vicious dog (pit bulls) and they bite someone. Can the owner of the property be sued??
It depends. If they (the landlord) knew that they were "vicious" or if the landlord received complaints about the dogs (like they were running around intimidating people etc.). In other words, a landlord cannot automatically be held liable just because a tenants dog bites someone. When their is evidence that the animal is a potential threat (like a neighbor complaining that the dog is intimidating, calls to animal control) etc. then the landlord has to do take necessary measures. If other tenants are legitimately fearful of the animal (making written complaints to the landlord and animal control) then the landlord could be held liable for allowing the tenant to keep the dog (and then they end up biting someone).
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Old 06-09-2008, 10:31 PM
 
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My parents lived in a rental house once upon a time and owned a large-ish dog. The dog was kept in the back yard and was fenced in. Unfortunately, there were a few dumbasses that liked to antagonize the dog. One being a neighbor who goaded his dog into "attacking" ours through the fence (chain link) after being told to stay away. His dog was "only" swiped across the muzzle. The other being a doofus who was repeatedly warned to stay away from the fence because the barking dog behind it did not like strangers. The doofus did not listen and was bitten through the fence. In both situations, cases were brought against my parents (NOT the owners of the house as it was determined they were not responsible for the animal). However, it was also determined that my parents were not responsible for other's stupidity.

Sooo, I suppose in the end it depends upon the case and who has the better argument.
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Old 06-10-2008, 06:36 AM
 
Location: SW Austin & Wimberley
6,287 posts, read 16,600,049 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by movingon2vegas View Post
If a renter has what's considered vicious dog (pit bulls) and they bite someone. Can the owner of the property be sued??
In most cases, you cannot sue someone for the acts or negligence of a third party. There are exceptions, but the bar is pretty high. It is the dog owner who would be sued, not the owner of the property in which the dog owner lives.

Who would you sue if the dog owner owned the property? The mortgage company? It won't fly.

The exception is if the landlord "knew or should have known" specifically that that specific dog was going to bite someone. It's not enough that it could have been "assumed" that the dog might bite. You'd have to PROVE that the landlord had specific knowledge of an impending event and neglected to take prudent action to prevent the act. That's nearly impossible to prove from a legal standpoint.

Steve
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Old 06-10-2008, 07:03 AM
 
Location: Gary, WV & Springfield, ME
5,826 posts, read 9,110,478 times
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And then again, you have the ignorant tenant who purchases a pit bull puppy and then tells everyone in the neighborhood that will listen, "It's grandfather killed a man" and the neighborhood grapevine brings that back to the owner of the property. The owner knew there was a new puppy on the premises but wouldn't know a put bull puppy from a chimpanzee. When the owner of the property asked the tenant about this grapevine news, the tenant admits same is true. At that point, the owner of the property knows too much and would be negligent and responsible if the puppy ever grew up and hurt someone.

And... if the tenant is engaged in an activity with wild animals including birds, squirrels, oppossum, just about anything that can be transported or temporarily housed in a crate or other cage to recover from illness, injury or abandonment (baby animals) and the owner of the property was aware of it, then yes, the owner could face a lawsuit if any of the animals injured a person. It happened and it happened to me.

It's called a wildlife rehabilitator, licensed by the state and is a legal activity in a residential setting. Keeping in mind that the nurtured wildlife on the premises were not dangerous in and of themselves. Add one idiot to the picture and both the tenant (rehabilitator) and the owner of the property were sued.

Even though this was a lawsuit, it never went to court. No judge heard either argument. The suit was directed at the tenant's renter's insurance company and then the owner's insurance companies. The insurance company for the tenant paid. That wasn't enough for the injured party and that's when they went after the owner of the property. So saying that it depends on the judge is a moot point. The insurance company paid on the claim and that added fuel to the fire of greed. And that's really what it boiled down to.

Been there and done that.

Last edited by AliceT; 06-10-2008 at 07:12 AM..
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Old 06-10-2008, 07:12 AM
 
Location: SW Austin & Wimberley
6,287 posts, read 16,600,049 times
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Quote:
At that point, the owner of the property knows too much and would be negligent and responsible if the puppy ever grew up and hurt someone.
Not correct. You are treating hearsay as fact. The owner "knows" nothing. He has only rumors but has no actual "knowledge" or "facts". It's a much, much higher standard than what you've described.

It duties and responsibilities could be imposed upon others based simply upon the third party rumors of others, we'd have a chaotic legal system.
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Old 06-10-2008, 07:19 AM
 
Location: Gary, WV & Springfield, ME
5,826 posts, read 9,110,478 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by austin-steve View Post
Not correct. You are treating hearsay as fact.
I don't think you are qualified to call my personal knowledge hearsay. If called to testify, I would not lie. If asked if I knew of the dog's parentage, am I expected to lie? Under oath? Despite what you might see in the daily news, not everyone in the world is a liar. Did I neglect to mention I was the owner of the property at the time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by austin-steve View Post
It duties and responsibilities could be imposed upon others based simply upon the third party rumors of others, we'd have a chaotic legal system.
What rumors are you referring to?
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Old 06-10-2008, 07:24 AM
 
Location: SW Austin & Wimberley
6,287 posts, read 16,600,049 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AliceT View Post
I don't think you are qualified to call my personal knowledge hearsay....What rumors are you referring to?
You said "and the neighborhood grapevine brings that back to the owner of the property". The "neighborhood grapevine" is not admissible evidence in court. Did I miss something?
Steve
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