When a person is injured by a dog bite, attorneys are often looking for anyone to sue, especially where a child or elderly person has been seriously injured. The dog owner is, of course, the person with primary legal liability, if any (different states apply different standards regarding when a dog owner is legally liable for a bite), but that dog owner may not have the funds to cover the alleged damages or may have fled the scene. If the dog bite occurred in the common area of an HOA, then, the victim of the bite may eventually come to the HOA to seek financial recovery in a personal injury suit.
HOAs Should Take Dog Bite Litigation Seriously
As with most personal injury law, the specific standards that apply to landowner liability will be based on statutes and past court decisions that govern in your specific state, but some common principles do apply across most states. One of those principles is that landowners do bear some legal duty to take reasonable actions to prevent injuries from occurring to people on the property, whether they be residents, invited guests, or even known trespassers (e.g. children who frequently come from outside a community to use its common areas).
Although the different legal standards that will apply to HOAs will, again, depend on the specific state law, it is nonetheless possible that an HOA could be found to have liability if the facts of the case show that the HOA failed to take reasonable steps pursuant to the applicable legal standard to prevent the dog bite. For example, this might be the case if the HOA knew a homeowner let his vicious dogs roam unattended in common areas where children frequently play. Thus, HOAs should take the threat of dog bite litigation seriously.
Working With an HOA Lawyer to Protect Against Dog Bite Litigation
To that point, a homeowners association can work with its HOA attorney to develop policies and procedures which both minimize the threat of dog bite injuries from occurring and protect the HOA from liability if they do. Such measures can include:
- Introducing rules for dog owners (e.g. leash rules in common areas)
- Placing signs up relating to whether dogs are permitted and what rules apply
- Procedures for monitoring violations of and enforcing dog-related rules
- Preventing trespassers from entering common areas and taking other measures to limit liability
While it may be impossible to prevent dog bites from ever occurring on your HOA property, there are numerous steps you can take to minimize potential liability for your HOA.
Work With an HOA Lawyer in Handling all HOA Legal Matters
At Goodman Holmgren, our sole focus is on meeting the legal needs of HOAs, including creating and implementing HOA policy and responding to homeowner concerns. Contact us today to discuss any legal challenge your HOA is facing.