Friday, August 10, 2012

Landlord Responsible for Third Party Injury?

Rosenberry v. Evans, 2012 PA Super 91, 2012 Pa. Super. LEXIS 175 (2012)

Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire

This matter addressed the issue of whether a landlord was liable for personal injuries suffered by a third party at the hands of a dog residing at property leased to a tenant.  Robert Miller (“Miller”) leased certain real property (“Property”) situated in Fayette County, Pennsylvania to Mitchell King (“King.”) On June 15, 2008, ten-year-old Alexander Prince (“Alexander”) and his grandparents Dale and Linda Cannon visited the Property to choose a puppy from a litter born to a pit bull owned by King’s girlfriend, Tanya Evans (“Evans”).  During the visit, Alexander was bitten by the mother pit bull and suffered serious facial injuries.  Thereafter, Rhonda Rosenberry (Alexander’s mother) commenced an action in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas against Miller, King and Evans alleging, inter alia, that Miller was in control of the Property at the time of the injury, was aware or should have been aware of the mother pit bull’s dangerous propensities, and was negligent for permitting the dog to remain on the Property and failing to advise others of its temperament.  Miller denied the allegations and, upon the completion of discovery, moved for summary judgment. The trial court, concluding that there was no evidence that Miller had been aware of the mother pit bulls’ dangerous propensities, granted Miller’s Motion, and dismissed the claims against him with prejudice.

On appeal, our Superior Court affirmed.  In issuing its ruling, the court noted that a landlord cannot be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s animal unless that landlord owes a duty of care, breaches that duty, and the injuries sustained are the proximate result of that breach of duty.  In this instance, there was no evidence that Miller had any knowledge whatsoever regarding the mother pit bull’s dangerous propensities, or that Miller had any reason to believe that the dog posed any danger to guests or invitees.  Rather, the record established that, prior to its biting Alexander, the mother pit bull had routinely played with different individuals without incident, and had never acted in a threatening manner.  Therefore, there was no reason for Miller to believe that the dog was dangerous and, hence, no duty on his part to warn third parties of any potential danger.

For additional information please contact Frank Kosir at

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