Strict Liability for Pit Bull Bites in Maryland
Written by: Billy Cannon On April 26, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals held a landlord responsible for an attack by their tenants’ pit bull on a young boy. The decision, Tracey v. Solesky, changed the law in Maryland. It is now no longer necessary for a victim of an attack by a pit bull or a cross-bred pit bull to prove that the attacking dog was dangerous. From now on, Maryland law will presume that pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are dangerous and will hold both owners and landlords responsible for any damages caused by an attack.
Put another way, owners of pit bulls or cross-bred pit bulls and their landlords will be held strictly liable for any future injuries caused by these dogs in an attack. The warning to both pit bull and cross-bred pit bull owners and their landlords could not be clearer. In fact, the Court states that its opinion “is prospective and applies to this case and causes of action accruing after the date to the filing of this opinion.”
On July 10, 2012, the Attorney General issued an opinion on the application of the opinion in this case due to a pending motion for reconsideration. The Attorney General’s opinion states that the effect of the opinion is delayed pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration.
Nonetheless, Offit Kurman recommends that any tenants who will be coming up for lease renewal who own a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull be given a non-renewal notice. Additionally, any tenants who are on month-to-month leases should be issued termination notices. The risks for landlords are too great to manage with pet fees or increased rent for pit bull or cross-bred pit bull owners.