Can Landlords be Sued for Tenant’s Dog Bites on Cape Cod?

dog carrying branch

According to Massachusetts law, dog owners are liable for any injuries from a dog bite, even if the dog has no previous history of aggressive behavior. Dog owners are liable for any “damage to either the body or property of any person” unless that person was trespassing or otherwise breaking the law. If the owner was renting a room, people bitten by a dog may wonder: Are landlords liable for tenants’ dogs if they injure someone?

Snow Law Group has over 30+ years of combined experience pursuing personal injury cases in court. Our dog injury lawyer has the skills to represent your case in court and seek damages. Personal injuries can take a significant financial and emotional toll, so you deserve a trustworthy law firm in your corner.

Landlord Liability for Dog Attacks

Massachusetts does not have an explicit statute that defines landlord liability with respect to bite incidents from tenants’ dogs. As such, common law principles apply in these types of cases to determine landlord negligence.

Aside from a handful of exceptions, landlords are not liable for harm resulting from dangerous or criminal activity their tenants engage in. In that sense, liability for dog bite attacks usually only applies to the dog’s owner because the landlord and plaintiff do not share a relationship that would generate a duty of care toward the plaintiff from the landlord.

In other words, if a landlord is to be held liable for a dog bite incident, the defendant must establish that the landlord knew about the dog’s propensity for aggressive behavior. They must prove that they had a reasonable duty of care to the other person.

The simple existence of a dog on the property is not enough to establish liability. If the landlord knows about a dog’s aggressive history and did not remove the dog when able, or they had control over the tenant’s dog in a common area, they can be held liable. For example, a landlord who knows that a tenant’s dog is on a leash and acts aggressively toward visitors may be held liable for any dog-related injuries that occur.

In a 2009 case in which a tenant’s dog attacked another tenant, and that tenant filed a suit against the landlord, a Massachusetts court ruled that the landlord was not liable for the injury. The court reasoned that the landlord did not bear an obligation of care to that same tenant. However, the court did rule that information about dog breeds and propensity for aggressive behavior can factor into determining landlord negligence.

Another Case

In another similar dog bite case, the person bitten was riding a bike, and a tenant’s dog chased him, causing him to fall off his bike and sustain injuries. That rider sued the tenant’s landlord, but the court ruled that the landlord did not owe a duty of care to that person. As such, the court ruled that strict liability for dog bite injuries did not apply to the landlord.

Homeowners Insurance, Renters Insurance and Dog Bite Liability Coverage

Most homeowners’ insurance policies include coverage for dog bites. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bite liability claims cost insurance companies over $850 million in 2020, and the average cost per claim was over $50,000. Most states, including Massachusetts, require real estate owners to have some kind of homeowners policy to cover injuries that occur on the property.

Also, most Renters Insurance policies cover dog bites. If you’re renting an apartment or town home that allows you to have a dog, its a good idea to get Renters Insurance to cover liability if your dog attacks or bites another person. In the majority of cases, the landlord won’t be held liable. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for additional costs outside of what your insurance company will cover.

Insurance companies can be difficult to go through, and they will often try to make the minimum payout possible. That is why it is in your best interest to have an experienced personal injury attorney to help negotiate with insurance companies. We pledge to pursue the maximum compensation so even if the final amount is reduced, you still come out on top.

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

Personal injury cases can be complex and require extensive documentation and appeals. While you can represent yourself in a personal injury case, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney. A personal injury attorney can help:

  • Question witnesses and gather eyewitness testimony
  • Investigate the scene of the accident
  • Acquire proper medical documentation and records establishing the nature and scope of the injury
  • Negotiate with insurance companies
  • File necessary legal documents and appeals
  • Represent your case in court

In rare cases, it may be possible to navigate a personal injury claim on your own. However, most cases are too complex for a non-attorney to handle. As personal injury lawyers in Cape Cod, we understand the specific ins and outs of the Massachusetts court system, so we can help you approach the case to achieve a positive outcome.

If you have sustained a dog bite or any other kind of dog-related injury, it’s important to act quickly. The statute of limitations on personal injury cases in Massachusetts is only three years, so you have limited time to seek financial compensation. If you fail to file a claim within three years of the date of the injury, then you won’t be able to take the case to court.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today

Dog attacks are a serious type of injury that can lead to lifelong complications. You could have extensive medical bills or lose your ability to work. The Snow Law Firm is dedicated to helping you seek restitution to make you whole again.

If you have suffered a dog bite injury or attack, contact us online or give us a call today at (508) 477-7100 to schedule a free case consultation.


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