South Carolina Dog Bite Law: Landlords and Common Areas

South Carolina dog bite law adheres to strict liability when it comes to dogs biting or harming people, S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-110:. The only defense would be if the dog was provoked in some way by the person that it attacked.

Recently the South Carolina Supreme Court rendered an opinion that helps in better illustrating the specific phrase of the dog bite law, “other person having the dog in his care or keeping.” In Clea v. Odom Opinion No. 27029, the court determined that claims for strict liability and common law negligence could move forward against the landlord for a tenant’s dog that attacked a child in the common area of the apartment complex. Citing Harris v. Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, 381 S.C. 357, 364, 673 S.E.2d 423, 427 (2009) the court stated, the presence or absence of a duty determines liability in situations that involve a statutory claim against a person having the dog in his care or keeping.  Id. at 365, 673 S.E.2d at 427.  There are three scenarios under § 47-3-110 when the attack is unprovoked and the injured party is lawfully on the premises:

First, the dog owner is strictly liable and common law principles are not implicated.  Second, a property owner is liable when he exercises control over, and assumes responsibility for, the care and keeping of the dog.  Third, a property owner is not liable under the statute when he has no control of the premises and provides no care or keeping of the dog.

Although each set of facts in a case are unique to that particular case, the SC Supreme Court helps limit the dark corners for the at fault owner or keeper’s liability insurance company to hide.

If you know liability insurance companies trying to hide from their duties to pay a fair and reasonable amount for the negligence of their insured, let me know.