Liability in Dog Bite Cases Occurring at Apartment Complexes
Most people would agree that dogs can make great pets. However, not every type of dog is well suited to live in an apartment. Some breeds need a lot of exercise, others are large and need a larger space, and a significant number of breeds can be extremely dangerous to other residents. For this reason, apartment complexes routinely restrict the breed and size of dogs that residents can keep on the premises. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that residents won’t go behind management’s back and purchase or adopt a restricted animal.
When a dog attacks another person at an apartment complex, there are several parties who could be liable, including the animal’s owner, the apartment complex owner and/or management company. Typically the insurance company for one or more party is involved in the settlement. However, these cases can become highly complex when a restricted breed of dog bites or attacks another resident because an insurance company may refuse to cover the incident.
Can an Apartment Complex Restrict Certain Breeds of Dogs?
Yes, apartment building owners can determine which breeds of dogs are allowed to live at the complex. In fact, it is relatively common for apartment complexes to implement dog breed and size restrictions.
Why Do Apartments Ban Certain Breeds of Dogs?
There may be several reasons why an apartment complex imposes a breed restriction; for example, large breeds may not be suitable for apartment living and breeds that are notoriously noisy may bother other residents. However, most breed restrictions are typically based on safety and insurance concerns.
It’s no surprise that some breeds of dogs are considered more dangerous than others. Thus, an apartment complex may hope to avoid legal problems by preventing residents from owning certain breeds. Alternatively, the apartment complex’s insurance company may refuse to cover certain breeds that are known to be dangerous. If so, the apartment complex would be in breach of its policy by allowing someone to move in with a restricted breed.
Do Breed Restrictions Apply to Service Animals?
No, under the Fair Housing Act, if a person owns a properly licensed service animal, an apartment complex cannot prevent that dog from living in the owner’s apartment, regardless of the animal’s size or predisposition to aggressive behavior.
Which Dogs Are Most Often Subject to Breed Restrictions in Apartments?
Apartment complexes have total discretion regarding which breeds of dogs are allowed on the premises. Although restricted breed lists vary widely between management companies, the following breeds are often included:
- Chow Chows
- American Bulldogs
- American Pit Bull Terriers
- Staffordshire Terriers
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Wolf Hybrids
- Great Danes
- Cane Corso
Who Is Liable if a Dog Bites Someone at an Apartment Complex?
This is a complex and fact-specific question; however, depending on the situation, the dog’s owner, the apartment complex, or both may be liable for a dog bite. Under South Carolina Code of Laws § 47-3-110, if someone is bitten while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, the owner is liable. This general rule applies regardless of whether the owner was negligent; however, it does not apply if the person who was attacked provoked the dog.
Section 47-3-110 does not apply to anyone other than the dog’s owner or someone who is caring for the animal. Thus, an apartment complex isn’t liable for a dog bite under this law. Under premises liability, an apartment complex may be liable for failing to prevent the attack by allowing a dangerous animal to live in close proximity to others. For an apartment complex to be liable, the dog bite victim must present evidence that the complex was negligent.
What Happens if a Restricted Breed of Dog Attacks Someone in an Apartment Complex?
If a dog that is subject to a breed restriction list attacks another apartment resident, it won’t necessarily change who is liable, but it may impact the availability of insurance coverage. For example, if an apartment complex knowingly allowed a resident to move in with a dog that is listed as a restricted breed on the complex’s insurance policy, the insurance company would almost certainly refuse to cover the victim’s injuries. However, the victim could still pursue compensation from the owner of the complex.
If an apartment resident obtains a dog on the restricted breed list without the knowledge of the apartment’s management, it is possible that the complex’s insurance company would similarly deny coverage. Additionally, it is possible that the dog owner’s insurance policy would also deny coverage if it contained a restricted breed list.
The bottom line is that these cases depend almost entirely on the language of the various insurance policies. Those who were attacked by a dog at an apartment complex should reach out to an experienced South Carolina dog bite lawyer for assistance.
Were You the Victim of an Apartment Dog Bite?
If you were recently attacked by a dog at an apartment complex, you may be entitled to financial compensation. However, these cases are highly complex and often turn on the nuances of the specific insurance policies in play. At the Steinberg Law Firm, our Charleston personal injury lawyers have been representing dog bite victims for over 95 years, giving us unrivaled experience and knowledge in this complex area of the law. We offer free consultations to all dog bite victims, during which we will answer your questions, provide you with an overview of the recovery process, and explain how we can help with your case. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 843-720-2800. You can also reach us through our online contact form.