The legal problem or challenge often times in obtaining liability against the property owner is proving that the property owner (if the property was rented to the dog owner) had:
1. prior notice of the dog's vicious propensities,
2. in addition to knowing the dog was there on the premises.
Here, the property owner is "usually" also the California landlord. Some of the ways we prove and meet this hurdle is by interviewing those who manage the home such as gardeners, pool men, etc., and those who would have any contact with the property and/or the property owner. Neighbors are an excellent source for us and we can obtain witness statements from them to help prove this prior knowledge of the dog's presence and prior dangerous conditions. Hopefully, in the past, a neighbor had notified the property owner of the dog's vicious propensity. We obtain their declarations before the filing of the law suit. Sometimes a law suit is not necessary as the claim may settle once the claims adjuster knows of the impending evidence against their insured. Postal carriers are another great resource. Postmen and Postwomen report incidents to their supervisors of dog bites or of vicious dogs. Their postal supervisor will then sometimes notify the property owner as well as the tenant and threaten the disruption of mail service to the home.
We research the dog too! The dog that caused the injury may have a record, like a criminal usually has a criminal history. Our investigation of every dog bite injury case includes obtaining the dog's veterinarian history and all records from the local board of animal control. There may have been reports of prior dog bites on the dog in question. From those records we can discover the history and see all reports, including names and addresses of all prior victims, which can allow us to interview those prior victims. Sometimes, the prior victims had notified the landowner, which can add to the prior knowledge hurdle. Lastly, we review the lease agreement between the landlord and the tenant because sometimes those lease agreements allow annual inspections, and sometimes they state they allow dogs. If so, any dog agreement or pet agreement is thoroughly reviewed. Perhaps, the landowner or its agent had a prior inspection and an encounter with a vicious dog and then notified the landlord. Further, residential home leases provide a provision regarding dogs that may help to prove prior notice. We will obtain the above outlined evidence before the defense has the opportunity to hide it during discovery. This proactive research will benefit you if you are bitten by a dog and we have to prove a case of landowner liability!
Mark C. Blane is a San Dog Bite Injury Attorney and the managing lawyer of the Law Offices of Mark C. Blane, a San Diego, California Personal Injury Law Firm dedicated to representing families of people injured by a California dog bite. If you or a loved one has been killed or injured in a dog bite injury or attack accident in California, please order your free copy of Mr. Blane's book, The 10 Secrets You Need To Know About Your Injury Case, BEFORE You Call A Lawyer. It is full of helpful information that will help you protect your legal rights and it normally sells for $16.95. However, it is free to all California residents, or those injured in a California accident.