Can You Sue a Landlord for a Dog Bite?
Under Florida law, owners are responsible for any injuries that their dogs cause when they bite someone. This liability attaches regardless of whether you know the dog has a tendency to be vicious, so long as the victim was legally on the property where the attack occurred.
But what happens if the dog lives at an apartment complex? Can you sue the landlord for injuries? If you can, you might receive even more compensation, since most landlords have liability insurance policies, whereas few renters have any insurance.
When a Landlord Might be Legally Liable
Under Florida Statute 767.04, an “owner” of a dog that bites someone is liable for damages. We don’t naturally think of landlords of owners. However, another statute (§ 767.11) defines owner very broadly, to include any person or organization that possesses, harbors, keeps, or has control or custody of a dog.
This definition is very broad, and in some situations it can apply to a landlord. For example, some landlords might have agreed to watch a dog for the owner. In this case, they can be held responsible when the dog attacks.
In other cases, courts have held landlords liable even where they did not agree to take control of the dog. For example, a landlord can be on the hook if they have knowledge that the dog is dangerous and fail to protect other tenants or visitors from the danger.
Imagine a landlord requires that tenants keep dogs in a kennel in the back yard when they are at work. The landlord has responsibility for the kennel but has neglected to fix it even after it has fallen into disrepair. As a result, a dog escapes and bites another tenant on the property. Under these facts, the landlord might be responsible for the dog bite.
A landlord can also be responsible if they include a provision in a lease prohibiting certain breeds but fail to enforce it. For example, in one case a landlord knew that a tenant’s pit bull was menacing a child on an adjacent property but did not evict the tenant. When the pit bull attacked the child, she sued the landlord.
A Landlord’s Defenses
Landlords will not be automatically liable for dog bites. Instead, you need to analyze your situation with an experienced Delray Beach dog bite lawyer. Landlords have many defenses, such as:
- They didn’t know the dog was on the property
- They had no reason to know the dog was vicious or dangerous
- The landlord took sensible, reasonable precautions to protect tenants and members of the public from the dog
Everything turns on the facts of your case. The more knowledge a landlord has of how dangerous the dog is, the better it usually is for our clients. If you are afraid of a tenant’s dog, then make sure to notify your landlord.
Protect Your Rights after a Dog Bite
Instead of assuming you don’t have a legal case, meet with an experienced dog bite lawyer in Delray Beach for a free consultation and case review. At Earnhart Law, we have obtained thousands of dollars in compensation for our dog bite clients, and we can get to work on your case right away.
To speak with a member of our team, please call 561-265-2220.