The lawsuit alleges that the part-time officer and his partner approached the front door of the rental property and were attacked by the tenant’s 120 pound pit bull, according to a news report. The officer suffered bites on his hands and was left with lacerations on his forearm. He is claiming he suffered permanent injuries. The wounded officer’s partner then shot him in the foot during the commotion before shooting and killing the dog.
A legal expert told reporters that in many states, the case would not survive because of what is commonly called the “firefighters rule” which bars emergency-responders from suing over risks they are paid to assume. But Pennsylvania does not recognize that exclusion to liability. There, a landlord could be liable for negligent or intentional conduct incidental to the emergency call. In this case, the officers were responding to a domestic dispute, according to the report.
The landlord did not comment on whether he knew about the dog’s propensities, but the officer is alleging that the landlord was aware of the dog’s aggressive nature, in part because the tenants had been cited several times for dog at large.
What is clear is that any landlord who does know a tenant’s dog has a history of aggressive behavior is inviting legal troubles into the rental, and may want to consider a policy that identifies this potential problem when screening tenants.
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