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Update on dog bite liability laws and the Maryland legislature

Lawmakers in the special session of the Maryland legislature failed to pass a bill that would have overturned a court ruling involving liability issues surrounding animal attacks by pit bulls. Maryland's highest court previously ruled that pit bulls are to be considered "inherently dangerous," and that personal injury or premises liability lawsuits involving dog bites by pit bulls did not require proof that the animal had exhibited prior violent behavior in order to hold the owner of the animal liable for damages.

The ruling also allowed landlords to be held liable for any dog bites or attacks that occur on their property. The Maryland House and Senate could not work out their differences in time to reverse the court's ruling, thus the ruling will stand. And in a related report, Maryland lawmakers passed a bill that extended "strict liability" to all dog owners, not just the pit bull breed. The new law stipulates that all dog owners, as well as property owners have a responsibility to keep the general public safe from harm.

The recent efforts to change Maryland's dog bite laws are the result of a 2007 case involving a 10-year-old boy from Towson. A pit bull escaped from its fenced yard and attacked the boy's friend before attacking him after he tried to help his friend. The little boy received life-threatening injuries in the attack. His family sued the owner of the dog as well as the owner's landlord and the case ended up at the Court of Appeals, which ruled that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

Earlier this month, the State Senate passed a measure that extended that ruling to encompass all dogs with only one dissenting vote. When a person is injured by an animal, the property owner as well as the owner of the animal can be held liable for damages. Stories involving attacks by pit bulls are usually the ones the mainstream media focuses on, however dog bites involving all breeds, including mixed breeds have also been known to cause serious injuries.

Source: ABC News, "Maryland dog-bite liability bill fails," Aug. 15, 2012

Our personal injury law firm, located in Maryland, handles a wide range of premises liability cases in the tri-state area. Please visit our Rockville premises liability page if you would like more information about our practice.

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