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May 2012 Dog Bite Update

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has held that a landlord cannot be legally responsible for dog bite injuries caused by a tenant’s dog unless the landlord has actual knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensity.  In their recent decision in Rosenberry v Evans, 2012 Pa Super 91, which affirmed a grant of Summary Judgment to the defendant landlord, the Court set forth the general requirements needed to hold a landlord liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog.  Those being – 1. the landlord has knowledge of a dangerous dog on the rented premises and 2. the landlord has the right to control the premises.

In applying those standards to the case at bar, the Court found that the landlord controlled the premises and that there were questions of fact as to whether the dog at issue had exhibited dangerous propensities (in making this finding the Court provides a thorough and well written explanation of the Nanty-Glo Rule).  However, the Court then held that there was no question of fact as to whether or not the landlord had actual knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities and granted summary judgment to the defendant landlord.  In making this decision, the Court clarified that as to the facts of this case only, actual knowledge of the dangerous propensity would suffice and that the plaintiff’s arguments of the landlord’s imputed knowledge or a “should have known/could have known” standard were not enough to avoid summary judgment.

Although the decision is not pro-plaintiff, it is very well thought out and should be required reading for those handling dog bite cases because how many times have we/you seen the case of the bad dog with a bad bite injury and the owner/tenant having no insurance?  It happens far too often and now the effort to find liability and coverage from the usually insured landlord has been made just a little bit harder.  To read the full decision, please click here.