Dog-injury victim faces setback in lawsuit

Lila Chee, 71, is a resident-owner of a condominium at theMarina Seagate complex. She was injured when a Jack Russell terrier owned byOlga Kiymaz, who rented the next-door condominium, ran out of Kiymaz’s unit.The unleashed dog jumped on Chee, causing her to fall and sustain numerousinjuries.

Kiymaz rented the condo from owner Jerome Brown, who hiredAmanda Goldt Property Management to find a tenant and collect the rent for hiscondo. Kiymaz filed bankruptcy and was dismissed from this lawsuit.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Chee sued Brown, Goldt Property Management and the condohomeowner’s association for premises liability “by allowing a dangerouscondition to exist,” posing a risk of harm to persons in the common areas,and negligence. She alleged Brown knew or should have known of the dog’sdangerous propensities and foreseeable risk of harm, so Brown should bevicariously liable for tenant Kiymaz’s acts.

The condo CC&Rs (conditions, covenants and restrictions)allow Marina Seagate residents to have one small pet per unit. Brown, Goldt andthe condo association moved to dismiss the case after presenting evidence Brownhad no knowledge his tenant’s dog was dangerous and he had no duty to inspectthe rented premises. There had been no previous reports to the homeowner’sassociation about the dog.

If you were the judge would you rule the lawsuit should bedismissed because landlord Brown had no knowledge his tenant’s dog wasdangerous and there had been no previous problem reports about the dog to thehomeowner’s association?

The judge said yes!

In the absence of actual knowledge of dangerous propensitiesof a tenant’s dog, the judge began, a landlord has no vicarious liability forthe dog’s behavior. Although Chee presented expert testimony of a dog expertthat Jack Russell terriers should not be confined to a small area such as acondominium, he continued, that was not conclusive evidence the dog was viciousand likely to attack.

Because Brown, property manager Amanda Goldt, and thehomeowner’s association had no previous knowledge of problems with Kiymaz’sdog, they are not liable for negligence or any other cause of action to Chee,the judge explained.

“Consequently, it is well established that a landlorddoes not owe a duty of care to protect a third party from his or her tenant’sdog unless the landlord has actual knowledge of the dog’s dangerouspropensities, and the ability to control or prevent the harm,” the judgeruled.

Based on the 2006 California Court of Appeal decision in Cheev. Amanda Goldt Property Management, 50 Cal.Rptr.3d 40.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

Copyright 2007 Inman News

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