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Liability of Landlord to Injured Plaintiff for Tenant’s Dog Bite

August 4, 2020

In the case of Ogunde v. Johnson, the Court of Special Appeals was asked to consider whether a landlord could be held liable to a plaintiff who was injured by a tenant’s dog.  At trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, but the trial judge granted the landlord’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict thereby reversing the jury’s decision.  Plaintiff appealed.  The Court of Special Appeals, in an unreported opinion, affirmed the decision of the trial judge finding that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that the landlord was aware of the dog’s presence on the property or that the dog had vicious propensities.  Accordingly, there could be no liability under the State law.  Alternatively, plaintiff argued that the landlord met the definition of “owner” under the Prince George’s County Code and an owner under the Code is strictly liable for any animal “running at large” or not on a leash.  Specifically, plaintiff argued that an “owner” is defined by the Code to include anyone who is “harboring” the dog and simply by virtue of being under the same roof, plaintiff asserted the landlord was “harboring” the dog.  The Court of Special Appeals disagreed with plaintiff because the evidence presented at trial demonstrated the landlord had no knowledge of the dog.  Therefore, the landlord cannot be found liable for any injury caused by an animal of which she had no knowledge.