More on Pit Bulls—Maryland Appeals Court Affirms Strict Liability

by Tom Schild

The Maryland Court of Appeals on August 21 affirmed its April 26 ruling that owners of pit bulls and property owners who have the right to control the presence of pit bulls are strictly liable for injuries caused by such dogs,  However, the court did modify its earlier decision so it does not apply to mixed breed pit bulls.

In its April 26 decision in Tracey v. Solesky, the court ruled that property owners who know, or have reason to know, of the presence of a pit bull on their property are liable for injuries caused by such dogs, whether or not they know a particular dog has a history of vicious propensities.  The court concluded that pit bulls are inherently dangerous animals.

According to the appeals court August 21 decision, the strict liability standard for injuries caused by pit bulls “simply requires that those who possess them or permit them on their property take reasonable steps to assure that they do not run loose or otherwise are in a position to injure people”.

The appeals court decision has been widely criticized for its conclusion that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, for applying a different standard of liability to one  breed of dog, and for making landlords and others with the right to control the presence of pit bulls on their property strictly liable for injuries caused by such dogs.

In response to the appeals court decision, the Maryland General Assembly considered several bills regarding liability for injuries caused by dogs during its recent Special Session.  Although the House and Senate passed similar versions of legislation, the differences in the two versions were not resolved before the General Assembly adjourned until January 2013 without enacting any dog bite legislation.

With the appeals court standing by its April 26 ruling to impose strict liability on pit bull owners and property owners, legislation regarding dog bite liability is expected to be considered again during the regular 2013 legislative session.

Faced with greater potential liability for pit bull bites, some landlords reportedly are terminating leases of tenants who have pit bulls and some dog owners are surrendering their pit bulls to animal shelters.  And, some condominium, homeowner association and coop boards are considering a ban on pit bulls.

This entry was posted in Condominiums, Homeowner Associations and tagged , , , , by Tom Schild. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tom Schild is written by Thomas C. Schild. Tom focuses his practice in the representation of community associations. Since 1985, he has represented condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives throughout Maryland and Washington D.C. He is recognized locally and nationwide as a leader in the field of community association law. Tom has written numerous articles and presented many seminars concerning various aspects of condominium and homeowners associations operations. He has recently presented programs regarding community associations insurance, contracts, leasing restrictions, tips for avoiding litigation, and community governance. He is a long-time member and past Chair of the Maryland Legislative Action Committee of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), which represents community association interests before the Maryland General Assembly. Tom is also a member of CAI's National Faculty and teaches a Community Governance course for community association managers in cities nationwide. And, he is a member of the College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL) which is comprised of fewer than 150 lawyers nationwide recognized for their leadership and contributions in the field of community law. He previously served on the Board of Directors of CAI's Washington Metropolitan Chapter. Tom is a 1976 graduate of Northwestern University and a 1980 graduate of the George Washington University Law School. He is admitted to practice before the state and federal courts in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.