SW Legal studies in Business

Landlord Not Responsible for Attack by Tenantís Vicious Dog
Description

Appeals court held that a landlord had no responsibility for an attack by a vicious dog. The dog was under the control of a tenant, and the attack occurred when children trespassed into the gated property.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Premises Liability, Negligence, Landlord, Tenantís Dog

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Winters rented a residence with a fenced backyard to Martinez. Martinez, his family, and a white and brown dog lived in the house. The Boots family lived near by with two sons, age nine and eleven. One day, the boys noticed the white dog was outside of the fenced yard. They returned the dog to its yard, and then the brown dog attacked. The nine year old ran for help; their mother came, and the dog attacked her too. The police shot the dog to stop the attack. Both the boy and the mother were injured by the dog attack. They sued Winters for negligence. Winters presented evidence that the boys had been taunting the dog prior to opening the gate and the attack by the brown dog. The boys denied that. The trial court granted Winters summary judgment. Boots appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The general rule of premises liability is that the one having control of the premises may be liable for failure to keep the premises in repair. The distinction between trespassers, licensees, and invitees is the controlling test in determining the scope and extent of the duty of care owed by landowners to entrants. A landowner owes an invitee the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition or to warn of hidden or concealed dangers. A landowner is only required to share with a licensee knowledge of dangerous conditions or activities on the land. For trespassers, a landowner need only refrain from wanton or willful acts that cause injury. Regardless of whether the victims of the dog attack were invitees, licensees, or trespassers on the property, the landlord owed them no duty under the theory of premises liability to protect them from injury caused by the tenant’s dog. There is a state law regarding keeping vicious dogs under control, but that did not apply to the landlord. The boys trespassed onto the property before being attacked, whether they were taunting the dog or not.

Citation

Boots v. Winters, ---P.3d--- (2008 WL 466580, Ct. App., Idaho, 2008)

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