Pit Bulls and the Law

Categories :: Other Legal Issues

Update: On Tuesday, April 8, Governor Martin O'Malley signed HB 73/SB 247, which establishes that in an action for damages against an owner of a dog 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. Notwithstanding any other law or rule, the judge in a jury trial may not rule as a matter of law that the presumption has been rebutted before the jury returns a verdict. 

However, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog while the dog was running at large unless the injury, death, or loss was caused to the body or property of a person who was (1) committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner; (2) committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person; or (3) teasing, tormenting, abusing, or provoking the dog.

This new law took effect on the date enacted and undoes the decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals in the case of Tracey v. Solesky The Court held in Solesky that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. A person who has been attacked by a pit bull can make a claim for damages against an owner simply by proving that the dog is a pit bull or a pit bull mix and that the owner knows or should know that the dog is a pit bull or mix. Landlords who know or have reason to know that a pit bull is kept on his property may also be sued for damages caused by the dog.

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