A law that would make dog owners strictly liable for injuries or deaths caused by their dogs has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly. The proposed law, House Bill 78, would create “a … rebuttable presumption in an action against an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog,” according to the language of the legislation.
The proposed law makes no distinction between breeds and would rectify what many legislators think was a bad decision last year by a Maryland court that declared pit bulls an inherently dangerous breed.
The bill reads:
in an action against an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.
The proposed law is openly aimed at the court decision, and goes on to state:
It is the intent of the General Assembly that this act abrogate the holding of the Court of Appeals,.
The 2012 ruling not only imposed the strict liability standard, but found that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. The court ruling for Tracey v. Solesky deemed pit bulls as inherently dangerous animals, regardless of the dog, its owner or any training. The ruling stated that ”it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.”
Breed of the dog would make no difference in the application of the law, if HB 78 passes.
The proposed law also aims to free landlords and others who own property but don’t own dogs from the strict liability imposed by the Court. The ruling, in essence, made the landlord just as liable as the dog owner in case of an attack. The bill would return the state to the law as it existed before the Court ruling last year. It would limit the liability of landlords to cases where the landlord could be proven to know of a dog’s vicious nature.
MARYLAND RESIDENTS: Please reach out to your respective legislators and encourage them to support HB 78 which would reverse the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling and return the state to the law as it existed before the Court’s ruling.
Residents of Maryland can find their legislators here. If you’re not sure who represents you, there is “Who represents me” link in the upper right hand corner of the page.
You can track the progress of HB 78 here.