WA Case Update: Landlord Potentially Liable when Friend’s Dog Bites Invitee

Attorney Profile Case Update Template - Kyle

 

From the Desk of Kyle D. Riley: When a dog bites a person who is lawfully on the property, the case is normally analyzed under common law strict liability.  However, many states have applied a premises liability theory to these cases.  In a case of first impression, the Washington Court of Appeals followed these other states in determining that premises liability applies to dog bite cases and follows a separate analysis from strict liability.

Claims Pointer: In this case involving a dog’s biting of an invitee, the injured invitee sought to sue both the County and the landlord.  The Washington Court of Appeals held dismissal of the invitee’s claims against the County was appropriate because the County did not owe the invitee a duty; however, the court also held that the invitee’s claims against the landlord could proceed because a premises liability theory was applicable and there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether the landlord had breached his duty to the invitee.  This case effectively adds a theory of liability to future dog bite cases that must be analyzed to evaluate overall exposure.

Oliver v. Cook et al., No. 47645-2-II, Washington Court of Appeals (June 14, 2016).

Steven Oliver (Oliver) operated an automotive shop on property owned by Eugene Mero (Mero) in Grays Harbor County.  Henry Cook (Cook), Mero’s friend, owned an eight-year-old male pit bull mix named “Scrappy.”  Mero knew Scrappy could be aggressive; not only did Scrappy often bark at passing strangers, but Mero avoided approaching vehicles when he knew Scrappy was in them.  On August 23, 2010, Cook arrived at the Mero property driving Mero’s flatbed truck.  Cook and Mero left the property together in a different vehicle, leaving Scrappy in the cab of Mero’s truck with the window partially down.  Oliver arrived at the property a short while later, and as he walked past the passenger side of Mero’s truck, Scrappy lunged out of the passenger window and...

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