Lila Chee, 71, is a resident-owner of a condominium at the Marina Seagate complex. She was injured when a Jack Russell terrier owned by Olga 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 numerous injuries.

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

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Chee sued Brown, Goldt Property Management and the condo homeowner’s association for premises liability “by allowing a dangerous condition 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’s dangerous propensities and foreseeable risk of harm, so Brown should be vicariously 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 and the condo association moved to dismiss the case after presenting evidence Brown had no knowledge his tenant’s dog was dangerous and he had no duty to inspect the rented premises. There had been no previous reports to the homeowner’s association about the dog.

If you were the judge would you rule the lawsuit should be dismissed because landlord Brown had no knowledge his tenant’s dog was dangerous and there had been no previous problem reports about the dog to the homeowner’s association?

The judge said yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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