When someone's dog attacks another person, one legal issue that our law firm regularly confronts is that the dog's owner is not a landowner, but a tenant. When the dog's owner also owns a home, their homeowners insurance policy usually covers their liability for personal injuries inflicted on the victim. However, if the owner of the dog is renting the residence, then there generally is no liability insurance policy to cover the attack. The next line of focus then turns to the landlord of the premises.
Georgia Dog Bite Laws
According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 51-2-7, “[a] person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured.”
Georgia's laws are different from most states in that they do not directly hold a landlord liable for their tenant's dog attack. In fact, Georgia laws protect the landlord from this type of liability, and only the dog's owner is liable for dog bite damages in Georgia.
However, here at The Casto Law Firm, we looked for exceptions to the general rule protecting landlords from liability in Georgia. We found an except to this rule, based on O.C.G.A. §44-7-14, which states:
“Having fully departed with possession and the right of possession, the landlord is not responsible to third persons for damages resulting from the negligence or illegal use of the premises by the tenant; provided, however, the landlord is responsible for damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.”
The argument for landlord liability in a dog bite or attack can be made from the last phrase of this law. Specifically, “. . . the landlord is responsible for damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.”
Accordingly, we feel that the landlord is liable to the victim of the dog attack if the premises contained a defect which allowed or contributed to the dog attack.
For example, imagine that a dog was able to escape its property, or enter the property of another, and attack a person because the landlord failed to make necessary repairs to a damaged and defective fence that the landlord knew about. The landlord's failure to maintain the fence in a safe and proper condition could impute liability for the dog attack upon the landlord.
Obviously, exceptions to the general rule are very fact-specific and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Consult The Mark Casto Law Firm, PC for Legal Advice
If you are the victim of a dog bite or dog attack, you should contact The Mark Casto Law Firm, PC for a free consult with an experienced dog bite injury lawyer. We have the experience and sophisticated understanding of Georgia dog bite laws to make sure you are compensated for injuries you sustained due to the wrongful conduct of the dog's owner—or their landlord.
To schedule a free consultation about your case with our attorney, call us at (706) 940-4030 or contact us online today.