Is a Commercial property owner responsible if the tenant’s dog bites someone on the premises?

December 15, 2015 6:26 pm Published by

Portillo v. Aiassa, 27 Cal. App. 4th 1128, 32 Cal. Rptr.2d 755(1994).

Can you sue and win if the owner of a commercial property if the tenant’s dog bites you?

Yes

Is a Commercial property owner responsible if the tenant’s dog bites someone on the premises?

Yes

Are you responsible if your tenant’s dog on a commercial property bites someone?

Yes

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Anthony Portillo was attacked and injured bya dog. He filed a lawsuit against defendants John Kim and Henry Aiassa. On June 21, 1989, Plaintiff Anthony Portillo delivered beer to Race Street Liquors. John Kim was doing business as Race Street Liquors. As plaintiff was leaving the store, he was attacked by Kim’s dog. The dog bit plaintiff on the scrotum and lacerated the scrotum, and caused him to fall. As a result of the fall, Plaintiff injured his knee and back. Defendant Aiassa owned the building where defendant John Kim was operating the Race Street Liquors store. The lease renewed on July 18, 1988. Defendant Aiassa did not conduct an inspection of the premises prior to renewing the lease. The dog attacked and injured Mary Florez two weeks before the lease was renewed on July 18, 1988. There was a sign warning of the dog. There was a copy of a newspaper article about Defendant Kim’s dog posted near the door of the store. The article was entitled, “Guard dog not amused by joke.” The article was dated January 14, 1986. The article displayed a picture of the dog with its paws on the store counter and its mouth open as if he were about to attack. The article referred to the dog as “..a furry juggernaut, replete with iron trap jaws, razor sharp fangs and a rotten disposition.” The article discussed the dog’s recent attack on an attempted robber in the store.

COURTS RULING

When a person has a duty to exercise reasonable care in the inspection of dangerous conditions on their property there is generally liability even if the owner is not aware of the dangerous condition. The owner has an affirmative duty to inspect the property or take other measures to determine the condition of the property.

To determine if a landlord has met the standard of care in the management of his property the criteria is to determine the likelihood of injury, the probable severity of the injury, the burden on the owner of reducing or avoiding the risk, and the degree of control the owner has over the risk creating defect.

To determine if the owner owes a duty in particular case the factors considered are the foreseeabilty of harm, the degree of certainty that plaintiff suffered injury, the connection between the owner’s conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the owners conduct, the policy of preventing harm in the future, the extent of the burden on the owner, the consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breaching that duty, and also the availability of insurance for the risk involved.

Requiring the owner to inspect the property would not impose a significant burden on him. The risk of harm to the public outweighs the value of a particular tenant on the premises. If the landlord chooses to keep the tenant, there is insurance available to reimburse injury victims. The owner did not exercise reasonable care in the inspection of the premises, he did not ask about the dog’s history, why the sign had been posted, if the newspaper article accurately portrayed the dog’s disposition, if the dog could be insured, and if someone other that the tenant’s family could attest to the dog’s disposition. If he had done so, he would have known the dog was dangerous.

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This post was written by Orange Dog Bite Attorney

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