Top 1% of Attorneys in CA
CA Lawyer of the Year
Top 10 Injury Attorneys in CA
Founder - CALIFORNIA'S ACCIDENT FORUM
Law Firm of the Year
Top 100 Trial Attorneys in CA
Professor of Personal Injury Law
Dog Bites / Injuries
Theories of Liability for the Dog Owner
- The plaintiff who is seeking damages for injuries resulting from a dog bite under a negligence theory may demonstrate:
- (1) The dog in question had a dangerous propensity for viciousness; (2) The dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensity; (3) The dog owner failed to adequately warn the victim of the dog’s propensity to bite; and (4) the dog bit the victim. Alternatively, the victim of an injury resulting from the actions of a dog may show (1) the owner owed a duty of care to the victim (i.e., the owner was obligated not to allow her dog to harm the victim – almost always shown); (2) the owner breached that duty (e.g., the owner failed to properly restrain his/her dog on a leash); and (3) the owner’s breach resulted in the dog causing harm to the victim (e.g., an unleashed dog jumped on the victim knocking her down resulting in a broken hip).
- The following cases are helpful resources in establishing the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities. In the cases below, the court found that the following facts placed or should have placed the owner with knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities:
- Keeping the dog solely as a “guard dog” and posting a sign that reads “Beware of Dog” – Portillo v. Aiassa (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 1128, 1135
- Keeping people away from the dog – Northon v. Schultz (1955) 130 Cal.App.2d 488.
- The owner’s knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities can be implied by the dog’s: (1) reputation (2) type and size or (3) proving that the dog is regularly chained or muzzled – Smith v. Royer (1919) 181 Cal. 165, 170.
- The owner of the dog told people that his dog may bite them – Bulow v. Dawn Patrol (1963) 216 Cal.App.2d 721, 729
Theories of Liability for a Landlord of Property
- In Uccello v. Laudenslayer (1975) 44 Cal.App.3d 504, the court found that if a landlord or his agent had actual knowledge of a tenant’s dog’s viciousness and could have removed that dog before it bit someone then the landlord can be held liable. The court held that “a duty of care may not be imposed on a landlord without proof that he knew of the dog and its dangerous propensities. Because the harboring of pets is such an important part of our way of life and because the exclusive possession of rented premises normally is vested in the tenant, we believe that actual knowledge and not mere constructive knowledge is required. For this reason we hold that a landlord is under no duty to inspect the premises for the purpose of discovering the existence of a tenant’s dangerous animal; only when the landlord has actual knowledge of the animal, coupled with the right to have it removed from the premises, does a duty of care arise.” Keep in mind that landlord liability can be found where the bite happens off of the rented property.
- In Donchin v. Guerrero (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 1832, the plaintiff was bitten by a tenant’s dog approximately four blocks from the property. The plaintiff sought recovery from both the tenant and the landlord. The court stated: “If the dog is taken on a leash by its owner, off the premises, prevention of an attack by the dog may be beyond the landlord’s control. But if the dog escapes the landlord’s property because of defects in that property, the landlord is liable for the off-site injuries.” Thus, as mentioned above, a landlord must repair dilapidations on the property that may allow a dog to escape and cause injury, if not, he may be liable for damages caused by the dog.
- A commercial landlord may be held liable for a dog bite if he had actual or constructive knowledge of the dog’s propensity for violence before the attack, and could have removed the dog prior to it harming the plaintiff. In Portillo v. Aiassa (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 1128, the court remarked: “We hold that a landlord has a duty to exercise reasonable care in the inspection of his commercial property and to remove a dangerous condition, which includes a dog, from the premises, if he knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care would have known, the dog was dangerous and usually present on the premises.” A landlord could not escape liability by failing to inspect the property and then asserting that he had no actual knowledge of the vicious dog.
Get In Touch
Recent blog posts on dog related accidents:
There are many kinds of insurance policies under which you can protect yourself and your property following a car, motorcycle or trucking accident, regardless of who is at fault or responsible for damages stemming from the accident. In a previous blog...
In a previous post, we discussed important California laws related to the operation of a bicycle on streets and highways. These laws were designed to minimize the occurrence of bike-related accidents (see Riding a Bicycle on California Street?...
Personal injury accidents come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on the type of vehicle involved, some accidents can be more catastrophic than others. Big-rig (i.e., trucking) accidents are often the most severe because of their size (see...
In our previous blog post, we discussed how California law imposes strict liability on the owner of a wild animal that injures someone, regardless how much effort was in place to restrain the wild animal or prevent it from harming someone (see...
A previous blog post discussed how California law follows a theory of liability known as "strict liability" for the owner of a dog that bites someone (see Dog Bites and Dog-Related Injuries). But does strict liability apply to other...
In our previous blog post, If a Child is Injured and in Need of Help, Do You Have to Help?, we discovered that there is no affirmative duty to render assistance to an injured person in need of help following a car accident, motorcycle accident,...
While driving down a rural country road, you see a 7-year old kid yelling to you for help. He is bleeding badly and in need of assistance because he was just involved in a car accident. You are fully able to render aid to his personal injuries...
Continuing our series on causes of action under a negligence theory (see Injury Accident Cause of Action? Negligence) stemming from a car accident, trucking accident (i.e., "big rig" or "semi truck"), motorcycle crash or other personal injury...
Undeniably, children are treated differently under the law than adults. This is true both in the criminal courts, as well as the civil courts. In previous posts, we discussed the legal requirements one must satisfy in order to prevail on a...
The direct victim of a car accident, trucking accident (i.e., "big-rig" accident), motorcycle accident, premises liability accident (e.g., slip and fall or trip and fall) or other personal injury accident has a cause of action against the...
Join Our Newsletter
Stay up to date on recent news.