Georgia Appeals Court Addresses Landlord Liability in Dog Bite Case

Recently, the Supreme Court of Georgia released an opinion in a Georgia dog bite case. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was walking her dog when another dog escaped its owner’s yard and attacked her. The woman suffered various injuries as a result of the attack, and she subsequently filed a lawsuit against the dog’s owners.

After her initial complaint, the woman amended her lawsuit by adding the dog owner’s landlord. She alleged that the landlord was liable under OGCA § 44-7-14 because he failed to keep the property in proper repair. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the dog was able to escape because the landlord failed to fix a broken gate latch. The landlord filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that although he breached his duty to repair the gate, the plaintiff did not show that the dog ever exhibited dangerous propensities or that the landlord knew of any dangerous tendencies. The trial court granted summary judgment in the landlord’s favor, and the plaintiff appealed. The appellate court reversed the ruling, and the defendant appealed.

Generally, under Georgia law, individuals who suffer injuries because of a dog bite or attack must establish that the dog was dangerous or had vicious propensities, that the owner had superior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous tendencies, and that the owner acted negligently. Georgia dog bite lawsuits can be challenging because proving viciousness is difficult, especially if the attack occurred in a Georgia county without a “leash law.” Furthermore, plaintiffs often face difficulties establishing that the dog owner had superior knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensities. Plaintiffs may face even more barriers to recovery when they try to hold a negligent landlord liable for their injuries.

In this case, the court explained that to recover damages for injuries because of another party’s negligence, plaintiffs must show four elements:  duty, a breach of the duty, causation, and damages. Here, it is undisputed that the landlord knew of the broken gate and failed to repair the latch. However, the court found that an issue arose regarding whether the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable result of the landlord’s breach of duty. The court reasoned that the plaintiff must show that the injuries that she suffered were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the landlord’s failure to repair the gate. To do this, she must present evidence that the landlord knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities because under Georgia law, dogs are not presumed to be dangerous or vicious. Ultimately, the court held that the landlord was not responsible because there was no evidence that he knew that his renters kept dogs that had exhibited any forms of aggression.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Dog Bite or Attack in Georgia?

If you or a loved one suffered injuries after being attacked or bitten by a dog, you should contact the Georgia dog bite attorneys at McAleer Law. The attorneys at our law firm have extensive experience handling various Georgia injury lawsuits, including dog bites and attacks. These types of cases can have devastating physical and psychological consequences, and negligent owners and landlords should be held liable for injuries that their animals cause. You may be entitled to monetary compensation for the damages that you suffered because of a dog attack. Compensation may include payments for medical expenses, psychological treatment, and pain and suffering. Contact our office at 404-622-5337 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our legal team.

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