Thursday, March 26, 2020

Judge Nealon Addresses Potential Liability of Out-of-Possession Landlord in a Dog Bite Case


In the case of Vicki v. Altuner, No. 17-CV-3602 (C.P. Lacka. Co. March 12, 2020 Nealon, J.), the court addressed issues of liability with respect to a dog’s owner and an out-of-possession landlord in a case where a jogger was allegedly attacked and bitten by unrestrained pitbulls.

According to the Opinion, there was evidence in the case that the landlord had prior knowledge that the dog had bitten and attacked the landlord’s handyman twenty (20) days since the incident.

The out-of-possession landlord Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that she did not owe any duty of care to the jogger since she did not have any prior knowledge as to the pitbulls’ dangerous propensities. In the alternative, the out-of-possession landlord asserted that she cannot be found to be breached any duty given that she had already initiated an eviction proceeding against the owner for non-payment of rent at the time the tenant’s dog attacked the jogger. 

The Motion for Summary Judgment was denied as the court found that there were issues of fact on the liability questions presented.

Judge Terrence R. Nealon
Lackawanna County

Judge Nealon noted that, even though the landlord had already begun eviction proceedings, the landlord also had other avenues available to remove the dogs from the premises after the prior attack upon the handyman, such as seeking immediate injunctive relief or the intervention of a local animal control authority in order to have the dogs removed. Given this issue, and other issues noted in the Opinion, the summary judgment was denied. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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