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Landlord Liable to Tenant's Guest for Death Caused by Tenant's Pit Bull
Description Maryland appeals court upheld jury verdict for parents of child killed by pit bull kept by tenant in violation of lease. Landlord had failed to prevent foreseeable injury by not requiring tenant to get rid of dog despite complaints about the dog.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Premises Liability, Duty of Landlord
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts In violation of terms of lease, a tenant in apartment building had a pet, a pit bull, about which various persons had complained to the apartment manager because of the dog's viciousness. The dog killed the 16-month-old son of a woman who left the child with the tenant who kept the dog. The parents of the child sued the owner of the apartment building for negligence for failure to maintain safe conditions. Jury awarded plaintiffs over $7 million. Judge reduced damages; both parties appealed.
Decision The landlord has a duty to maintain the common areas in a reasonably safe condition and that duty extends to tenants and others rightfully on the premises. Landlord's duty to tenant and tenant's guests in tenant's apartment is much more limited. When owner leases premises that are a nuisance, and receives rent, then, landlord is liable. Here, the landlord retained control over the presence of a dog in the tenant's apartment by virtue of the "no pets" clause in the lease. The landlord was on notice of dangerous incidents involving the dog and the foreseeability of harm was clear. Mother's negligence is not relevant because it was not superseding cause. Jury verdict upheld.
Citation Matthews v. Amberwood Associates Ltd. Partnership, Inc., --A.2d-- (1992 WL 713452, Ct. App., Mary.)
719 A.2d 119 (Ct. App., Mary., 1998)

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