Thursday, April 26, 2012
A divided Maryland Court of Appeals has held that a premises owner with the right to control a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull dog is liable for damages caused by the dog's attack notwithstanding the absence of prior notice of the dog's attacking nature: "When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous."
The holding in essence creates strict liability for owners of dogs with some amount of pit bull in them. Among the cases cited by the majority is a bar discipline matter from Florida involving the use of pit bull imagery in lawyer advertising.
The court declined to opine on the impact of the opinion on Rottweiler attacks.
There is a dissent of three judges:
Today, the majority holds that a pit bull or any dog with a trace of pit bull ancestry (determined by what means the majority leaves us entirely in the dark) shall be deemed hence forth vicious and inherently dangerous as a matter of law.
A footnote in the dissent:
The majority opinion delivers an unenlightening and unworkable rule regarding mixed-breed dogs. How much "pit bull" must there be in a dog to bring it within the strict liability edict? How will that be determined? What rationale exists for any particular percentage of the genetic code to trigger strict liability?
The dog at issue here was named Clifford (earlier Maryland pit bull cases involved dogs named Trouble and Rampage). Clifford escaped from a pen and attacked two boys. (Mike Frisch)