Strict Liability For MD Pit Bull Owners

Posted on: June 29th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

An April 26, 2012 decision of the Court of Appeals of Maryland adopted the legal theory of strict liability in respect to attacks on humans by pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls.  In the case before the trial judge, a pit bull jumped over a 4′ high fence.  There was no overhanging ledge or other preventive measure to keep the dog from jumping out.  This had been the 2nd time the pit bull had escaped on that day.

The escaped pit bull attacked and mauled a young boy.  The dog bite victim sustained life threatening injuries.  Multiple surgeries were needed, including one to repair his femoral artery.  The young boy was hospitalized for 17 days and spent a year in rehabilitation.  The dog bite attorney sued both the pit bull owner and the landlord.

At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case at trial, the trial judge granted a judgment for the landlord.  He decreed that there was insufficient evidence to permit the issue of common law negligence to be presented to the jury.  The Court of Special Appeals reversed the trial court ruling.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland established a strict liability standard in respect to owning, harboring or controlling pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls.  When an owner or a landlord is proven to have knowledge of the presence of a pit bull or should have had such knowledge, a prima facie case is established.

The Appellate Court further ruled that it was not necessary that the pit bull’s owner or landlord have actual knowledge that the specific pit bull involved is dangerous.  Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous.  Tracey v. Solesky, No. 53, September Term 2011, April 26, 2012 J. Cathell.