South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Landlord Not Liable for Attack by Tenant's Pit Bull
Description Nebraska high court held that a landlord was not liable for injuries inflicted by a pit bull on a meter reader who was told by the tenant who owned the dog that it would not attack. Unless the landlord knew of the dangerous propensities of the dog before the attack, he could not be liable for the injuries inflicted.
Topic Torts
Key Words Landlord, Tenant, Duty of Care; Dangerous Dog
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Plowman worked as a meter reader, which required her to walk up to houses to record gas and water meters. Before she entered Pratt's yard, she asked her if it was safe to come to the house to read the meter. Pratt said that her pit bull was harmless, but when Plowman entered the property, it attacked Plowman and inflicted serious injuries. Plowman sued Pratt, who rented the house, and Semin, the landlord who owned the house, for allowing a dangerous dog on the property. The district court dismissed the claims against Semin. Plowman appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. A duty of care may not be imposed on a landlord for injuries caused by a tenant's dog without proof that he knew of the dog and its dangerous propensities. If a landlord allows a tenant to have a dangerous dog on the premises, then liability may be imposed in case of attack. Even if Pratt had the dog in violation of the lease, that would not cause liability to be imposed on Semin. The fact that pit bulls have frequently been reported to be involved in attacks is not sufficient information for Semin to know that this particular dog would behave the way it did.

Citation Plowman v. Pratt, 684 N.W.2d 88 (Sup. Ct., Neb., 2004)

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