Dog Liability Bill Advances

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The Maryland Senate narrowly advanced an emergency bill in an effort to overturn a court ruling holding dog owners and rental housing providers strictly liable for damages caused by pure bred pit bulls. Although SB 247 passed second reading in the Senate, a floor amendment was adopted on a 25 to 22 vote that would hold the owner of a dog running at large liable for injury, death or loss to a person or property caused by the dog. It is unclear to what degree this amendment will jeopardize the bill’s fate in the House of Delegates.

As with last year’s bill, this bill would create a rebuttable presumption, in cases involving personal injury or death caused by a dog, that the owner knew or should have known of the vicious or dangerous propensities of the dog. For AOBA members, the bill would restore the pre-Solesky common law standard of liability for third parties such as rental housing providers. Under common law, a property owner would be held liable for damages caused by a tenant’s dog if it could be proven that the property owner had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises and its vicious propensities, and maintained control over the leased premises.