Can a Landlord Be Held Liable for a Dog Bite in Georgia?

This Georgia legal guide is provided by The Millar Law Firm, Georgia dog bite lawyers who specialize in helping the injured victims of dog attack cases.

Key Points

  • It is difficult, but not impossible, to sue a Georgia landlord for a renter’s dog attack or bite.
  • Landlords are protected by the “out of possession” rule and premises liability law.
  • Many Georgia renter’s insurance policies cover dog bite claims.
  • If the tenant and landlord will not tell you if they are insured, call our Georgia Dog Bite attorneys.

Most Georgia landlords are not liable to third parties for damages due to the negligence of a tenant, due to a legal concept known as “out of possession.” Under O.C.G.A. 44-7-14 property leased to a tenant is considered to belong to the tenant during the lease. This means that the tenant, and not the landlord, is responsible for the dog attack. The only limited exception might be if the landlord knew a tenant was keeping a vicious dog in a common-area and the landlord had some control over the facts surrounding the attack.

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How Georgia’s Courts View Landlords Liability in Bite and Attack Cases

Case Example – case dismissed, child bitten at an apartment complex: When her toddler was bitten in the face one Georgia mother brought suit against a tenant, the owners of the apartment complex where they lived, and the leasing agent for the complex. In this case, Griffiths v. Rowe Props., 271 Ga. App. 344 (2005), the tenant, property owner and management company all argued that they had no idea the dog was dangerous. The landlords also argued that the dog’s attack did not happen in one of the common areas over which they had control. According to court documents, the attack took place inside the apartment. The case was dismissed because there was no evidence that the owner or landlord knew the dog had been aggressive in the past.

Case Example – case dismissed, victim could not sue landlord for premises liability: In Webb v. Danforth, 234 Ga. App. 211 (1998) a Georgia father sued under the premises liability statute when his daughter was attacked by a dog on property that was owned by a landlord and rented to a tenant. The Court again dismissed the case, finding that the tenant was in possession and control of the premises at the time of the attack and that the landlord did not own, possess or control the dog.

Case Example – case NOT dismissed when there was evidence landlord knew the dog was vicious: In Lidster v. Jones, 176 Ga. App. 392 (1985) an apartment manager admitted that he knew the dog had attacked another tenant’s child a year earlier. The victim’s mother also testified that the manager told her that the dog was vicious and had attacked other people and had tried to bite the manager several times. The Court of Appeals refused to dismiss the case, finding that there some evidence the resident manager’s knew of the violent propensity of the dog. Further, the incident occurred in a common area of the apartment complex. A word of caution: the Lidster case is over 35 years old, and our firm is uncertain that the current Georgia Appellate Courts would not dismiss this case.

Does Renter’s Insurance Cover Georgia Dog Bite Claims?

The good news is, yes, many (but not all) renters insurance policies will cover a tenant whose dog attacks a human. The bad news is that very few tenants carry renter’s insurance. Still, if you, your child or another loved one is attacked by a dog owned by a renter, it is worth trying to find out if the dog’s owner has renters insurance. This can be difficult as many renters do not want to tell the victim they are insured. If this happens to you, call us. We may be able to help.

In a Georgia Dog Attack or Bite Case, Can a Landlord Be Responsible For Failing to Require Renter’s Insurance?

The short answer is no. While it is a good idea for a landlord to require that his or her tenants have a policy of renters insurance, you cannot get around Georgia’s laws making it difficult to sue the landlord simply because the landlord did not require insurance.

What if a Landlord Allows a Tenant to Keep a Restricted Breed?

Unfortunately, while this is a violation of the lease, in Georgia it does not mean the landlord is automatically liable when a tenant’s dog attacks a human. You will still have the burden of proving that the landlord or manager knew the dog was vicious and failed to control the common area of the apartment complex. As the above examples show, this can be very difficult.

Don’t Give Up. Our Georgia Dog Bite Injury Lawyers May Be Able to Help!

There are many technicalities in Georgia dog attack and bite liability law. This does not mean that your case should not be investigated.

If you think you have a case involving an animal attack, call or email our firm. The Millar Law firm specializes in dog bite cases and we have often found renters insurance or liability in these cases after the dog’s owner has tried to hide the truth.

Our Georgia dog attack attorneys will evaluate the facts and insurance issues around your dog attack case at no charge. Once we’ve given you our free evaluation, you will have a better idea whether or not you’re likely to be able to recover in court. Call us at 770-400-0000 (call 770 – “4 million”) or chat with us today.

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