Pit Bull Strict-Liability Law Upheld in Maryland Federal Court
A federal judge has ruled that Maryland’s controversial strict-liability ‘Pit Bull’ law can stand, according to a July 15 report by ABC2 News.
The law stems from a Court of Appeals ruling in April 2012 which found that, if a Pit Bull bites you, you can sue the owner--and his or her landlord--and you are very likely to win, even if the pit bull hasn't bitten anyone before.
Under the earlier ruling by the Appeals Court, if you are bitten, merely showing that the owner of the dog or the landlord of the property knew the dog is at least part Pit Bull is sufficient to file a claim. Previously, victims of attacks filing lawsuits had to show that dog’s owners (and landlords) knew the Pit Bull(s) had a history of violent behavior
Denver Assistant City Attorney Kory Nelson wrote at that time: “For the first time, a state's highest court has ruled that a landlord can be held civilly liable for damages caused by their tenant's pit bull, regardless of whether the pit bull had a known prior history of attacks or aggressive behaviors. With this landmark decision from the Maryland Court of Appeals, attorneys can now legitimately pursue similar lawsuits against landlords in other states urging their states to adopt the reasoning in the Maryland decision.”
Kevin A. Dunne attorney in the case--which stemmed from a violent 2007 attack on a Towson boy--explained, “The high court's decision didn't say Pit Bulls are banned. It makes the owner of the dog financially responsible for the injuries caused. It affects you if your dog hurts somebody else."
Animal advocates claim that the law has led many landlords to not allow tenants to own Pit Bulls and more of the dogs are crowding shelters around the state.
The federal judge’s decision stems from a case in which a long-time tenant who owned a Pit bull filed a lawsuit in federal court after the owners of the Armistead Gardens Apartments in Baltimore began eviction proceedings.
“They go round-about trying to say they're trying to stop people from being attacked, but what they're really doing here is getting people evicted,” said Charles Edwards, the tenant’s attorney. He plans to appeal the ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
Efforts to overturn the Court of Appeals ruling failed in the Maryland General Assembly, and the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have extended "strict liability" to all dogs, not just Pit Bulls.
The House of Delegates version would have removed strict liability altogether, but the two chambers were not able to come up with a compromise by the 2013 final session.