Owner Not Liable for Dog Bite
Facts: A postal carrier was injured by a pit bull while he was attempting to deliver mail to the front door of a rental house. The dog shoved the glass storm door open from inside the house and jumped onto the postal carrier, knocking him down. As a result, the postal carrier fractured his arm.
The postal carrier sued the owner for negligence. The postal carrier claimed that the owner negligently failed to maintain the storm door. He further alleged that the owner knew or should have known that the storm door had a defective latch and didn't fix the defect prior to the attack by the dog.
The owner asked the trial court to dismiss the case, arguing that: (1) he owed no duty to the postal carrier to safeguard him against a resident's dog; (2) the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency Assisted Lease Agreement (Section 8 lease) and additional leases prohibited dogs, and he had no knowledge that the resident was keeping a pit bull on the leased premises; and (3) he had no duty to provide a storm door with a lock because the property had a wood front door with a locking mechanism.
The trial court sided with the owner and dismissed the case. The postal carrier appealed.
Decision: The appeals court upheld the trial court's ruling, dismissing the case.
Reasoning: The court noted that where the leased premises are inadequately secured due to ineffective or defective materials, the owner has a duty to provide repairs or modifications upon notification of the defect by the resident. This duty arises from the landlord-tenant contract and from the implication that the owner must provide services under the contract in a diligent manner, the court explained.
However, the court concluded, in this case the postal carrier did not provide any authority supporting his claim that the owner had a duty to install or repair a secondary storm door. Furthermore, the postal carrier presented no evidence that the storm door was installed with the intent to protect third parties from the resident's dog.
Finally, the court reasoned, the postal carrier also failed to show that the lease agreements impose a duty upon owners to install, maintain, and repair secondary storm doors in addition to the existing exterior wood door with a locking mechanism or that such duty, even it existed, extended beyond the occupants of the dwelling to third parties.
The court thus concluded that the owner owed no duty under the premises liability theory to repair the storm door latch to protect third parties from the resident's dog.
- Taylor v. Glenn, January 2010