In a July 11 blog post at the main DBL blog, we discussed a recent Kentucky Supreme Court decision about a landlord’s liability for a dog-bite injury caused by a tenant’s dog. On August 10, 2012, the Kentucky Court of Appeals issued a decision (not yet final, designated to be published) that discusses more generally the issue of a landlord’s liability for injuries off the premises caused by a tenant’s negligence on the premises.
In Carruthers v. Edwards, the Court of Appeals considered a trial court’s dismissal of a dramshop act claim against a landlord who leased the premises for operation of a bar. In short, analyzing Green v. Asher Coal Min. Co., 377 S.W.2d 68 (Ky. 1964), and Restatement (Second) of Torts § 379A, the Court held that the landlord was not liable for the bar’s negligent overserving of a patron who later caused injury since the landlord was not on notice at the inception of the lease of the tenant’s propensity to habitually overserve patrons who would then drive off in their cars. The main issue appears to be whether, when the lease is signed, the landlord knows there is an unavoidable risk of unreasonable injury to others off the premises from the tenant’s activities, or whether the landlord later authorizes conduct creating such a risk.
In a case where the landlord is held vicariously liable for the tenant’s negligence, the landlord would in most circumstances have a right of indemnity back against the tenant, for what it’s worth. As we discussed in the July post about dog bite liability, landlords may try to control their risk by changing their property management practices and lease documents as well as verifying their and their tenants’ liability insurance coverage.
The dog-bite decision we blogged about, Benningfield v. Zinsmeister, became final on July 12, 2012. It is reported at 367 S.W.3d 561 (Ky. 2012).
The Carruthers decision is not yet final, but was designated for publication in the South Western Reporter. Kentucky appellate decisions that are not final should not be cited as authority.