Bills have passed in both the state Senate and the House of Delegates that would alter dog-bite liability in Maryland after a 2012 Court of Appeals ruling that singled out pit bull owners and their landlords for virtually automatic liability in the case of a bite. While that ruling caused a fair amount of chaos as some landlords forced tenants to give up their pits, the new law (assuming the two bills will be successfully merged) would make landlords generally not liable and presume liability for dog owners regardless of breed.
That presumption of liability for dog owners does not amount to “strict liability,” however, and some critics of the legislation argue that a provision for the neutralization of that presumption — the owner is given the opportunity to prove that the dog had been otherwise docile — undermines the purpose of the bill and comes close to a “one-free-bite” policy.
Personally, if I were a dog-bite victim — and I didn’t provoke the attack — I would find it hard to fathom a decision that found the owner not liable. If the owner isn’t liable, then who is? Me?
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