The S.C. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that a landlord can be held responsible when a dog bites someone in a common area on rental property.
“We certainly intend to take this back to trial,” said Columbia attorney Stephen Samuels, who represented a 2-year-old Sumter boy. The boy amassed some $17,000 in medical bills for numerous injuries after being bitten in 2003 by Boo-Boo, a large mixed-breed dog owned by a tenant who kept the dog chained in a common area of the rental property, according to briefs and filings in the case.
The tenant who owned Boo-Boo, whose name was not available, already has reached a settlement in the case.
Up to now, landlords have generally been shielded from liability in cases in which injuries are inflicted in common areas. But Monday, the high court made it clear that from now on, the landlord can be held responsible and a dispute in such a case can go to trial.
Boo-Boo the dog had previously attacked another child on the property, and there was evidence the landlord “had actual knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity” and “failed ro remedy the situation,” the high court noted.
Circuit Judge George James Jr. in Sumter previously had granted summary judgment to the landlord — dismissing the case without allowing it to go to trial — because landlords have been shielded from responsibility in such matters.
The case now heads back to the circuit court in Sumter.