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Huryk v. Kelly

A-747-03T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

LANDOWNER’S LIABILITY; DOGS—A landlord is only liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s biting dog if the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s aggressive propensities.

A pizza delivery carrier was returning change to a customer when the customer’s dog ran out of his apartment and bit the delivery person. It was “conceded that there was no proof that the dog ever attacked anyone prior to this incident.” Because the delivery was to a commercial rental premises, the delivery person asserted that he “need only establish that a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm existed, not actual knowledge of the dog’s propensities.” The lower court and the Appellate Division disagreed.

A 1999 case restated the rule applicable to dog bites. It said: “nder the common law, ordinarily a landlord is not responsible for injuries caused by its tenant’s dog. ... However, a landlord owes a duty to his tenant or his tenant’s invitees, to prevent injury from his tenant’s dog if he is aware of the presence of the animal on his property and is also aware of its vicious propensities.” While it is true that strict liability is imposed on a dog owner, the landlord is only liable if the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s aggressive propensitites.

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