A recent decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals determined that owning a “pit bull” or “pit bull mix” is an inherently dangerous activity in Maryland that gives rise to strict liability in cases when the dog does damage to individuals or property. Strict liability basically means that liability does not depend on actual negligence or intent to harm (which is usually reserved for extremely dangerous activities and some types of products liability claims).
The 4-3 decision, written by Judge Dale R. Cathell, represents a major change to Maryland law by modifying one of the elements that must be proved in cases involving pit bulls. The court held that if the particular dog is a pit bull, the danger is inherent in the breed; therefore, the legally-required intent or knowledge of wrongdoing is met by knowing that the dog is a pit bull.
The dissenting opinion by Judge Clayton Green, Jr. cites several issues with the majority’s opinion, including their lack of regard for the behavior of a specific dog, lack of consensus on which dogs may be considered a pit bull, and conflicting studies about how communities should best control dangerous dogs. Judge Green specifically noted that, “According to some experts, there are more than twenty-five breeds of dogs commonly mistaken for pit bulls.”
A motion for reconsideration has been filed in the case, wherein the court has been asked to review its decision and to consider issuing a different decision in light of that review. AKC GR will continue to report developments in this case.
The majority and dissenting opinions in the case, Tracey v. Solesky, may be viewed here.