Condominiums need to be wary of owners with vicious dogs. Just a little over a year ago, a New York court found that a condominium’s knowledge of an owner’s dog’s vicious tendencies could be enough to bring them into potential litigation.
In Pargament v. The Oaks at Latourette Condo 1,2,3,4, Linda Hines, and Saparn Realty, Inc. 915 NYS 2d 789 (NY Civ Court 2010), Plaintiff sued the condominium as well as the dog’s owner as a result of injuries she sustained when Hines’ dog attacked her. Plaintiff reported this attack to the Board President and the President informed her that he was aware of another incident in which the dog attacked someone else. The condominium filed a summary judgment arguing because it did not own or control the dog or the property where the attack happened (it happened inside of Hines’ unit which she owned) that it could not be liable.
While a condominium does not own individual units, it is responsible for the enforcement of bylaws and condominium rules. The court found this control extends to the activities conducted by residents, both within their units and within the common areas. In this way, the relationship between unit owner and the condominium is similar to a landlord/tenant relationship. In order for a landlord to avoid liability in such a situation, the landlord must show that he/she did not have any actual or constructive notice of the animal’s vicious propensities. Given that Plaintiff informed the President of the attack and he admitted that he knew of a prior incident where the dog had attacked someone else, and that the condominium did not offer any evidence to contradict the Plaintiff, this was enough for the case to proceed against the condominium and survive a motion for summary judgment.
This case may give condominiums considerable pause before deciding it is a good idea to allow pets in their buildings. For those condominiums that already allow pets, they should consult with experienced management and/or legal counsel to determine how to handle a potential dog bite case.