Georgia landlord liability for dog bites

A landlord or land owner in Georgia is required to keep his property safe for visitors to the extent established by two key statutes, one of which has been interpreted to make him liable for dog bite injuries.

OCGA 51‑3‑1 states: “Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” This has been interpreted to impose liability for negligence in keeping just the common areas of the premises safe, the “common areas” being defined as those parts of the premises to which all tenants and others are allowed access. Maloof v. Blackmon, 105 Ga. App. 207 (4a) (124 S.E.2d 441) (1962). In Lidster v. Jones 176 Ga. App. 392 (1985), OCGA 51-3-1 was held to impose liability upon a landlord that knew a dog was dangerous, after it bit a child in a common area of the apartment building.

On the other hand, the landlord is not responsible for unsafe conditions in those parts of the property of which he has divested himself of control. His duties toward visitors are limited to proper construction and repair of the premises, pursuant to OCGA sec. 44‑7‑14, which states: “Having fully parted with possession and the right of possession, the landlord is not responsible to third persons for damages resulting from the negligence or illegal use of the premises by the tenant; provided, however, the landlord is responsible for damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.”

Furthermore, he cannot be held liable unless he had knowledge that the attacking dog was indeed dangerous.