When does a landlord owe a duty of care to the guests of a tenant to prevent injury from an attack by a vicious dog kept by the tenant on the leased premises?

August 20, 2015 9:34 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Uccello v. Laudenslayer, 44 Cal. App. 3d 504, 118 Cal. Rptr. 741 (1975)

Q: When does a landlord owe a duty of care to the guests of a tenant to prevent injury from an attack by a vicious dog kept by the tenant on the leased premises?

A: The landlord owes a duty of care to prevent a tenant’s vicious dog from attacking the guests of a tenant when the landlord has actual knowledge of the presence of the dangerous animal and when he has the right to remove the animal by retaking possession of the premises.

Q: Does a landlord have the duty to inspect his property to determine if the tenant is harboring a dangerous animal?

A: No duty.

Q: Is constructive notice of an animals viciousness sufficient to hold a landlord liable for the animal’s attack?

A: No, actual knowledge of the animals propensities is required.

A five year lived with his father and mother in Modesto, California. Across the street lived Cappell with his family in a rented house. Defendant Rex Laudenslayer doing business as Rex Realty owned and rented several properties within the immediate area of the Cappell Rental. The Cappells’ owned a large German Shepherd dog. The dog was normally kept penned in the fenced backyard of the rental house and sometimes it was allowed inside the house. In 1971 the five year old entered the Capell’s house to play with a daughter of the tenants. While playing inside the kitchen area the dog entered the house and the dog attacked the five year old. Defendant visited the Cappells’ house on at least three occasions. The Cappells’ placed beware of dog signs and the utility companies were warned about a bad dog. In 1970 bit a neighbor and it bit a child in 1971. After the second dog attack the neighbors circulated a petition and demanded the dog be removed, but the Cappells ignored the request. The same year in 1971 the dog attacked a daughter of the Cappells’ and the dog was euthanized.
The landlord had a right to terminate the lease within two weeks notice and lived in the general area. So he was deemed to have sufficient knowledge of the vicious dog and had the ability to remove the danger by requiring the dog be removed or terminate the rental agreement.
Actual knowledge of the dog’s propensities is required, not just constructive notice. There is no duty for the landlord to inspect the premises for the purpose of discovering the existence of a tenant’s dangerous animal. The duty of care arises when the landlord has actual notice and te right to have the animal removed from the premises.

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This post was written by Orange Dog Bite Attorney

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