Can I Sue My Landlord if I am Bitten by Another Tenant’s Dog?

I live in an Apartment complex and was bitten by another tenant’s dog!  Can I sue the landlord, or apartment owner?

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

Under what circumstances can I sue the landlord for a dog bit that took place in one of the landlord apartment units???  Often, a dog bit victim will not have any redress against the dog owner because they have no insurance, and no assets to go after in a law suit.  Dog bit victims have attempted to go after the landlords in these circumstances because there is insurance!  What do you need to prove against a landlord in a dog bit case?   Under New Jersey law this issue has been addressed several times and revisited recently in this case.  The court ruled:

“Under the common law, ordinarily a landlord is not responsible for injuries caused by its tenant’s dog.” Hyun Na Seo v. Yozgadlian, 320 N.J. Super. 68, 71 (App. Div. 1999) (citing Cogsville v. Trenton, 159 N.J. Super. 71, 74 (App. Div. 1978)). However, beginning with Linebaugh v. Hyndman, 213 N.J. Super. 117, 120 (App. Div. 1986), we held there were circumstances where a landlord could be liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog. The landlord in Linebaugh was aware that one of the tenants owned a large German Shepherd that had previously bitten another person. A child playing in the shared common area of the rented duplex was seriously injured when she was bitten by the dog. We held that “[a]n abnormally [vicious] domestic animal is like an artificial [dangerous] condition on the property.” Id. at 121 (quoting DeRobertis v. Randazzo, 94 N.J. 144, 157 (1983)). We stressed that the landlord’s liability was “well within traditional principles of negligence law.” Id. at 122. A landlord could be held liable where he permitted a tenant to harbor a vicious animal and failed to take curative measures.

In Hyun, we declined to impose liability on a landlord. There, a tenant was bitten by another tenant’s dog and sued the landlord. 320 N.J. Super. at 71. We again determined that the landlord’s liability was based on “ordinary principles of negligence,” holding that “in the absence of proof that the landlord was aware of the dog’s vicious propensities, or perhaps that the dog was inherently vicious, liability should not be imposed upon the landlord.” Id. at 72.”

What does this mean?  You as a plaintiff have to prove the landlord knew about the vicious nature of the dog, like the fact that the dog bit someone else before on one or more than one occasion, and the land lord let the dog remain on the property just like allowing any other dangerous condition in the property  to exist after the landlord has knowledge of the dangerous condition! How do you prove these facts? How do you get this information? Obviously you have to get an investigator to go interview all of the other tenants at the property and learn what they know about the dog and the apartment management team! You also have to look into what the apartment complex staff knew or should ache known given a reasonably diligent supervision of the property in question! These take an experienced law office to handle!  Hark & Hark is that Law Office.

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