Court Holds Landlord Liable For Tenantís Dog Bite
Marylandís highest court has ruled that landlords can be held responsible for injuries caused by their tenantís dogs even when the attack on a tenantís guest occurs in that tenantís apartment.
In Matthews v. Amberwood Associates Limited Partnership, the court found that Shelly Mortonís lease, for an apartment, contained a provision prohibiting pets. Morton was keeping her boyfriendís pit bull "Rampage," who was known to be vicious, in her apartment while her boyfriend was in jail.
When Shanita Matthews and her 16-month-old son were visiting Mortonís apartment, the dog attacked the child. Eventually, Morton was able to wrestle the dog away, but the 16-month-old ultimately died of his injuries.
The court reasoned that here, where the landlord retained control over the matter of animals in the apartment (because of the lease provision), coupled with the knowledge of past vicious behavior by Rampage, the extremely dangerous nature of pit bulls, and the foreseeability of harm to people, the landlord could be liable.
The court imposed a duty on the landlord to abate the dangers presented by a tenantís keeping a vicious dog on the leased premises.
This admittedly difficult ruling, a case of first impression in Maryland, broadens the liability of landlords for any known hazards (not only dogs) to almost any third party who might happen onto their property.
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