Dog jumped & scratched face of uninvited neighbor on our property...

by Lena
(Dallas, TX)

A group of neighbors were putting religious pamphlets on doors on our block. One lady entered my property and approached my boyfriend who was sitting in the garage with our Komondor. The dog was leashed and the leash was attached to a permanent hook in the garage door frame.

My boyfriend saw the neighbor, and held up his hand for her not to approach but she didn't stop. The dog walked toward her slowly, then jumped up and placed his paws on her shoulders. He does this a lot, not aggressively, just greeting. He's very large so when she jumped back her face was scratched by either his teeth or his claws.

She began to bleed then went to the ER. I called the police and animal control just to make sure there is a record of the incident. Can we be held liable even when the dog was leashed? The neighbors also were not invited onto the property, and my boyfriend directed her not to approach. Does this matter? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Dog jumped & scratched face of uninvited neighbor on our property...":

Lena (Dallas, TX):

The legal doctrine which applies to the facts presented in this case is referred to as premises Liability. A property owner has a legal "duty of care" to do everything within reason to assure his or her property is free from dangers which might cause injuries to third parties who are legally upon the property.

When a property owner fails in his or her duty, and as a result a third party is injured, the property owner may be held liable for injuries and resulting costs sustained by the injured party. The failure is referred to as a "breach" of the property owner's duty of care. The practical manifestation of the breach is negligence.

The next issue is the legal status of the neighbors who came onto your property. For legal purposes they are referred to as "Licensees."

A licensee is a person who enters the property of another legally, despite the fact that the property is not open to the general public. While the property is not open to the general public, those who enter, such a mail delivery persons, pizza delivery persons, and even neighbors who place religious pamphlets on doors, are licensees.

The question remains whether you or your boyfriend as property owners failed in your duty to keep your property free from dangerous defects. To have failed in that duty would mean you were negligent by not doing everything within reason to assure your property was safe for the neighbor who entered as a licensee.

From the facts you present, you appear to have done everything within reason to maintain your property so as to make it safe for the neighbor. Your boyfriend did so by first leashing the dog, and second by putting up his hand to effectively warn the neighbor to stay away, or at least keep a safe distance.

It appears if anyone was at fault, it was the neighbor who was injured.

For a thorough review of the duties owed to licensees and invitees read:

St. John's Law Review: Torts - Duty Owed Invitee and Licensee

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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