Pit Bulls ‘Inherently Vicious,’ Landlord-Liability Ruling Stands in Maryland

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

An effort by Pit Bull advocates to have the Maryland legislature change the law to address liability concerns over a breed-specific court ruling by the state's highest court failed when the House and Senate could not reconcile differences in a special session on August 14.

The court decision in April had declared pit bulls to be "inherently dangerous." The ruling was in response to a Baltimore County Circuit Court decision in the case of 10-year-old Dominic Solesky, who was attacked by a neighbor's pit bill in 2007. Dominic’s plight was so tragic that it led several local governments to reconsider the laws governing pit bulls. The animals are banned in Prince George's County.

Kevin A. Dunne, attorney for the Solesky family, made it clear at the April hearing that 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."

The ruling means that in any attack involving a pit bull, plaintiffs in civil lawsuits don't have to prove the animal's prior violent behavior for the owner to be held liable for damages.

The failure of the State Legislature to pass a bill on Tuesday means the high court's ruling stands.

The ruling also means landlords can be held liable in dog-bite cases on their property. This determination by Maryland’s court is in line with other jurisdictions which are increasing liability for the owners of rental property where tenants fail to properly confine and maintain dogs.

Although advocates for Pit Bulls believe the determination to be excessively harsh, statistically the largest percentage and most severe injuries result from Pit Bull attacks and often tenants do not carry insurance to reimburse the victims or pay their medical bills.

The premise that the person who allows a dog to remain on the property should ultimately have the responsibility for its behavior is hoped to place more accountability with property owners and increase safety for neighbors.

To learn more about the Maryland ruling and the increasing nationwide trend to make landlords responsible, read:

Related article: Pit Bull in San Diego Apt. Complex Bites Pregnant Woman as Courts Debate Landlord Liability.