Like many other states, California takes a strict liability approach to injuries caused by dog bites. As a general rule, if you have been mauled or attacked by someone else’s dog, you can seek damages whether or not the owner knew or had reason to know that the dog was aggressive or had a propensity to physical violence. You must only show that the dog belonged to the owner and that you were legally on the property or the attack took place in a public place.
Though the courts in California have extended the state’s dog bite laws to impose liability on landlords, they have specifically held that the concept of strict liability does not apply. Nonetheless, a landlord may be legally responsible for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog, under the following circumstances:
- If the landlord knew about the dog and knew of it aggressive behavior, there can be liability. There is no duty to inspect property to determine the presence of a dog, and there’s no requirement that the landlord gather information about the dog’s likelihood of aggression. The landlord must have actual knowledge and must have the right to remove the animal from the premises.
- If a landlord is negligent in controlling or maintaining property, and that negligence leads to an attack, the landlord may have responsibility. For example, if the landlord knows of the existence of a dog, but fails to maintain an existing fence, if the dog escapes and bites someone, the landlord may have liability.
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