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.


South Carolina Dog Bite Cases: Pointers from an Expert Witness

Ron Berman, an expert witness in dog bite cases throughout the United States, recently had an article entitled, “Dog Bite Cases: Avoiding 9 Common Mistakes”, in The Justice Bulletin published by the South Carolina Association of Justice.

This article provided several important points in building a dog bite case and the mistakes an attorney could make in developing their case against the negligent owner or person keeping and/or caring for the aggressive dog. (To review the law of South Carolina on dog bites read my previous blog entitled, “Dogs Bite, Owners Pay: South Carolina Dog Bite Law“.)

Mr. Berman makes these important points for those who have been bitten by a dog and incurred injuries:

  • Just because South Carolina has strict liabilityon dog bite cases does not mean a defense can not be raised or a burden for injuries can be met;
  • Video presentation or pictures of the aggressive dog can go a long way in being reimbursed for your injuries;
  • Inspect the area the dog inhabited for further clues of its aggressive nature;
  • Look over and request any documents or papers that can be provided by the owner for the dog;
  • Take pictures and document any wounds or bite marks; and
  • If going to trial, consult with an expert witness that can further your case.

As a point of reference, Mr. Berman cited statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that clearly point to how big an issue dog bites can be on a national level:


  • About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
  • Almost one in five of those who are bitten :a total of 885,000: require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries.
  • In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.