LANDLORDS AND LIABILITY FOR TENANT’S DOG BITES
A Wisconsin Court of Appeals recently refused to extend liability to landlords when their tenant’s dog bites and injures a person. Normally, the injured person could sue the landlord for negligence if that person was injured by the dog on the landlord’s property. A case brought by the injured person requires proof of four elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation and injury. The landlord’s duty of care would be to refrain from acts that unreasonably threaten the safety of others. Second, the landlord must breach that duty of care by actions or in actions that results in the landlord having threatened the safety of others. Third, there must be a causal link between the breach and the injury sustained. In other words, the injury occurred because the landlord did or failed to do something. Finally, the injury must result in actual loss or damage. If the injured person can prove the elements of negligence, the landlord would be liable for the damages of the dog. However, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals has determined that certain public policy exceptions exist which prevent landlords for being responsible for the injuries caused by their tenant’s dogs.
The Court found a public policy exemption to terminate the liability of landlords for their tenant’s dogs. The Court decided to limit liability to those landlords who have control and dominion over the tenant’s dogs. This person is typically the owner or keeper of the dog. The Court decided to limit the liability of landlords to owners and keepers of the dogs because it is difficult to determine the landlord’s level of awareness of a dog’s aggressive nature and to create a clear line in determining liability. The Court will not find a landlord to be liable for the tenant’s dog unless he is either the owner or keeper of that dog.