Dog Attack Case in California

In Donchin v. Guerrero (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 1832, a dog-attack case, the landlord initially denied, but later admitted that he knew the dogs lived on the rental property. (Donchin v. Guerrero, supra, 34 Cal.App.4th at p. 1835.) The initial denial, which the court termed a "false exculpatory statement," was evidence attempting to show he had no liability. A false exculpatory statement is "evidence of a declarant's state of mind and demonstrates his knowledge he has committed a wrong." (Id. at p. 1841.) The court held that when combined with the other evidence concerning the dogs' behavior, a trier of fact could infer that when the landlord lied about knowing that the dogs were living at the property, his denial may be used to infer that the landlord had a guilty conscience about the dogs' dangerous propensities. (Id. at pp. 1842-1845.)