Canadian Underwriter

Tenant shares liability for attack on visitor by homeowner’s dog

March 19, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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A Calgary homeowner and her tenant are on the hook for more than $20,000 after a waste removal contractor was attacked on the property by a dog.

In Malig v. Kaur, released Mar. 16, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that Kamalpreet Kaur and her niece, Chandni Singh, must pay Aurelio Malig $4,204.13 in pre-judgement interest. That interest is on top of $15,127.89 plus costs that Justice Bernette Ho of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ordered the women to pay Malig in 2018.

Singh was a tenant in Kaur’s house in August 2011. Malig was hired to remove waste from the yard. He showed up, entered the yard, and was attacked after Singh opened the back door and the German Shepherd ran out. The animal was trained to protect its owner’s property.

In 2018, Justice Ho found Kaur and Singh jointly and severally liable. A key question for the court was whether Singh, as tenant, was liable under the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

Singh is liable under the Alberta Occupiers Liability Act, the court ruled, for several reasons, including:

  • she was a tenant;
  • she understood that she was responsible for having Malig remove the waste from the backyard;
  • Malig was a visitor who was lawfully on the premises because of an express or implied term of contract;
  • she knew the animal was a trained guard dog; and
  • she knew that “Beware of Dog” signs were posted;

Singh should have taken reasonable steps to prevent the dog from both exiting the house and approaching Malig, Justice Ho ruled.

Despite the original award, Malig appealed (and was successful) on the grounds that Justice Ho erred in not awarding him pre-judgement interest. Most of the original award was $15,000 in general damages. The other $127.89 was for medication.

What exactly happened the day Malig was attacked was in dispute.

At one point, Singh had said she did not know exactly what day Malig was going to do the job. The dog attacked Malig on Aug. 5, 2011.

Before he showed up, Malig said he phoned a number that was provided to him and a woman answered. Malig told her that he was calling about the waste removal job and that he was nearby. He could not confirm whether the woman on the phone was Kaur or Singh. The woman told him that the waste to be removed was located at the back of the house.

During the trial, Singh said she did not speak with Malig by phone that day.

She indicated that she woke up, went upstairs, proceeded to prepare food in the kitchen, and opened the door to let the dog out. She testified she first saw Malig when he was already being attacked by the dog in the backyard.

Ultimately, Justice Ho preferred the testimony of Malig, who said the dog and Singh exited the house at about the same time.

Malig was treated by a doctor after he was bit on the left thumb, right thigh, calf, and left buttocks. He was off work for two weeks.

He asked for $20,000 in pain and suffering and was awarded $15,000. Justice Ho refused to award him another $5,000 for income loss, which Malig asked for to compensate him for hiring a friend to work for him. That was because Malig’s company paid the friend, not Malig as an owner,  Justice Ho ruled. Malig’s company was not a party in the case.


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