Court Discusses Landlord’s Potential Liability in Recent Dog Bite Case

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case discussing under what circumstances a landlord can be responsible for injuries caused by her tenants’ dogs. The case is important for New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs because it discusses the issue of third-party liability, which can be very important in New Mexico personal injury cases.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the defendant landlord rented a home to a family (“the tenants”) who had three dogs. The landlord had rented the home to the tenants for several years, and knew the tenants’ dogs. One day, the tenants arranged to have friends over for dinner (“the guests”). The tenants told the guests that they left the side door unlocked, and that the guests should wait inside the home in the event the guests arrived at the house before the tenants.

Evidently, the guests arrived at the home before the tenants and entered through the unlocked side door. As the guests opened the door, the tenants’ three dogs bolted out the door. The dogs attacked the plaintiff, who was walking his dog in the neighborhood.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the tenants, the guests, and the landlord. Relevant to this discussion is the plaintiff’s case against the landlord.

Landlord Liability

The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim against the landlord, granting the landlord’s motion for summary judgment. The court explained that a landlord does assume a duty to protect those outside a rented home in some circumstances, but only when the landlord either consents to the tenants’ conducting a dangerous activity inside the home or should have known that the tenants’ use of the property presents an unreasonable risk to others.

Here, the court held the landlord did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care because she was not aware that the tenants’ dogs were aggressive or presented a danger. The court relied on the landlord’s testimony explaining that she knew the dogs for several years and was not aware of any instance where the dogs were aggressive or had attacked anyone.

The court allowed for the possibility that future claims may be successful, explaining that a landlord could be liable for a plaintiff’s injuries if she knew that the tenants’ dogs were dangerous. However, given the lack of the landlord’s knowledge, in this case, the court found the landlord did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care.

Have You Been Bitten by a Dog?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a New Mexico dog bite or attack, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated New Mexico personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience handling all types of injury claims, including New Mexico dog bite cases. To learn more about how we can help you recover for the injuries you have sustained, call 505-889-FINE to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and you will not be billed for our services unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Slip-and-Fall Case Dismissed Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Prove that Grocery Store Violated a Duty of Care, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 13, 2018.

Court Discusses Applicable Legal Standard in Vacation Rental Premises Liability Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 30, 2018.