Ever since last year when the Court of Appeals ruled that pit bulls were inherently dangerous and their owners (and sometimes landlords) were strictly liable for any dog attack, there has been a flurry of activity from lawyers, dog lovers, legislators and landlords over what should be done next.  Keep the law as-is? Reinstate the old way of doing things?  Come up with a new law?

Well, the legislature, despite numerous attempts at legislating our state to a different rule, has faltered.  The proposed compromise would have overturned the Court’s decision, and would be breed-neutral (that is, it wouldn’t single-out pit bulls or any other type of dog).  It would not have returned Maryland to the status quo.  Before, dog bite victims had to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous before the attack.  The proposed bill would have placed the burden on the owner to prove that the dog had no dangerous propensities.

The fight now is over an amendment which requires a higher level of proof from the dog’s owner—clear and convincing, instead of the standard “preponderance of the evidence.” We’ll have to wait to see if there will be efforts to salvage the proposed legislation, any version of which is better than what we had before.

We’ve seen people injured in attacks by dogs of many breeds.  There’s no reason to single-out one specific breed.  Our preferred rule would be that all owners are strictly liable for their animals.  It’s hard to see how that rule hurts anyone, other than insurance companies who pay for the claims.  If I had a dog that was the sweetest animal in the world, then one day bit a child, I’d be screaming for my insurance company to pay the claim.

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If you have questions after any type of personal injury in Maryland or West Virginia, including dog bite attacks, contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-776-4529, or online.

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