Landlord Isn’t Liable for Tenant’s Pit Bull Attack: Appeals Court Ruling

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled that a landlord is not liable for his tenant’s pit bull after the dog ran from the landlord’s property and attacked a pedestrian.

The plaintiff was riding his bike past the landlord’s house with his dog jogging along side him on a leash.

The pit bull ran into the street and attacked the leashed dog while knocking the plaintiff to the ground. The plaintiff suffered injuries due to the fall.

He sued the landlord for negligence and the trial court judge dismissed the lawsuit through summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed and the Appeals Court issued a ruling affirming the trial court’s decision.

According to the Appeals Court

As a general rule, a landowner does not owe a duty to take
affirmative steps to protect against dangerous or unlawful acts
of third persons…There is an exception to this general rule where there is a special relationship between the landowner and a plaintiff in which a plaintiff would reasonably expect a landowner to take steps to protect the plaintiff from harm…We have previously held that such a special relationship exists between a residential landlord and a tenant, such that a landlord has a duty of reasonable care to protect a tenant from harm by another tenant’s pit bull on the premises…However, no Massachusetts appellate court has extended such a duty to a passer-by injured by a tenant’s dog after the dog leaves the landlord’s property. We decline to do so here.

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