Dog Attack Victim Brings Negligence Suit Against Landlord in Maryland Appeals Case

Dog bites or attacks can cause serious injuries.  In many instances, the victim may have recourse against a negligent pet owner.  In an October 16, 2019 case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a Maryland personal injury negligence claim brought by a plaintiff who suffered injuries as a result of a dog attack.  When her claims were dismissed by the circuit court on summary judgment, she brought an appeal.

The plaintiff in the case was reportedly attacked right outside of her home by a pit bull.  The dog was owned by the son of one of the tenants in a nearby housing complex.  The dog owner did not reside in the housing complex, but frequently stayed with his mother for varying periods of time.  Although the housing complex prohibited dogs on the property without written consent, the tenant allowed her son to bring dogs with him when he visited her.  Following the dog attack, the plaintiff filed a negligence suit against the owner of the housing development.

In Maryland, to hold a landlord responsible for injuries sustained from an attack by a dog owned by a tenant, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that the landlord: (1) had control over the dog’s presence at the property; (2) was aware of the presence of the dog at the property; and (3) was aware that the dog had vicious propensities.

When a dog attack occurs on the victim’s property, as in the instant case, there are additional considerations.  If a person is injured outside the landlord’s property due to the activities of a tenant or others on the leased property, the landlord may only be held liable if: (1) the landlord consented to the activity or knew that it would be carried on at the time of the lease, and (2) the landlord knew, or had reason to know, that the activity would involve an unavoidable and unreasonable risk or that necessary safety precautions would not be taken.

On appeal, the court ultimately concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the defendant had the knowledge necessary to hold it liable for injuries caused by a dog owned by someone on its property.  The court noted that there was no evidence that the pit bull who attacked the plaintiff had previously displayed vicious propensities.  The court further found there was insufficient evidence to show that the defendant knew of the presence of a dangerous or vicious dog at any time before the plaintiff was attacked, or at the time the landlord entered into the lease agreement with the tenant.  Without evidence that the landlord knew about the dog that attacked the plaintiff, nor evidence that anyone knew that the dog was dangerous, the appeals court held that summary judgment had been properly granted against the plaintiff.

The Maryland personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran can provide compassionate and comprehensive legal advice if you have been hurt in an accident.  We represent plaintiffs and negligence victims in lawsuits against insurance companies and the careless individuals and businesses responsible for their injuries.  Request a free consultation to discuss a premises liability claim, medical malpractice, or any other personal injury by contacting at Foran & Foran online or calling (301) 441-2022.