Maryland: Four bills filed to overturn discriminatory liability case

Update 5/21/12: The first special session is over, so these bills are dead. However, we are hopeful that they will be refiled if a second special session is called.


Four bills to reverse parts of the Solesky court decision have now been filed during the Maryland Assembly’s special session.

While all four bills have merits, our preference is for HB 1804 / SB 1307, which not only reverses the court decision, but also prohibits MD municipalities from passing BSL. Of course, a merging of the best parts of the four bills would also be extremely agreeable. Below, I have listed the four bills and explained their effects. They aren’t identical.

Although the session agenda-setters still maintain that the special session will only tackle budget issues, it doesn’t hurt to keep asking them for help. Ask the following officials to take up HB 1804 / SB 1307 during the special session:
Governor: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/
Speaker of the House: michael.busch@house.state.md.us
Senate President: thomas.v.mike.miller@senate.state.md.us

And finally, keep writing your own legislators and the sponsors of the below bills. It’s important to keep Assembly members interested in this issue so that even if it is not dealt with during the special session, it will certainly be addressed in January when the regular session begins.

HB 1804 / SB 1307

This bill would reverse the Solesky court decision that placed strict liability on “pit bull” owners simply because of the breed of dog. It would also prohibit MD municipalities from passing or enforcing BSL.

HB Sponsored By: Delegates Smigiel and Mizeur
SB Sponsored By: Senators Pipkin, Getty, Kittleman, and Reilly
Email addresses: Michael.Smigiel@house.state.md.us; Heather.Mizeur@house.state.md.us; EJ.Pipkin@senate.state.md.us; Joseph.Getty@senate.state.md.us; Allan.Kittleman@senate.state.md.us; Edward.Reilly@senate.state.md.us
Entitled: Courts – Dangerous Dog Presumption – Specific Breed Prohibition
Synopsis: Establishing that, for the purpose of determining criminal or civil liability, a dog may not be presumed dangerous or potentially dangerous solely on the basis of the breed or heritage of the dog; providing that the Act does not preclude a political subdivision from adopting or enforcing a program to control dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs if the program does not discriminate among dogs solely on the basis of the breed or heritage of the dog; applying the Act prospectively; and making the Act an emergency measure.

HB 1806

This bill would completely erase the Solesky court decision. It would not affect muncipalities’ ability to pass or enforce BSL.

Sponsored By: Delegate Kramer, Benjamin.Kramer@house.state.md.us
Entitled: Courts – Dog Bite Lawsuits – Evidence and Standard of Proof
Synopsis: Establishing that in a cause of action involving damages resulting from a dog bite, the common law rules of evidence and standard of proof that existed on January 1, 2012, are retained without regard to the breed or heritage of the dog; stating the General Assembly’s intent to overturn the ruling in a specified court case; and applying the Act prospectively.

HB 1807

This bill would completely erase the Solesky court decision. It would not affect muncipalities’ ability to pass or enforce BSL.

Sponsored By: Delegate McMillan, Herb.McMillan@house.state.md.us
Entitled: The Maryland Dog Nondiscrimination Act
Synopsis: Establishing that in a cause of action involving damages resulting from a dog bite, the common law rules of evidence and standard of proof that existed on January 1, 2012, are retained without regard to the breed or heritage of the dog; stating the General Assembly’s intent to overturn the ruling in a specified court case; and applying the Act prospectively.

 HB 1808

The Solesky court decision ruled that landlords could be held liable for injury caused by tenants’ “pit bulls” even when the injury occurred off the landlord’s property. I believe this bill would undo that decision, by placing the liability only on the person who is responsible for controlling the dog (presumably, the dog’s owner). This bill does not appear to reverse any other part of the decision. That is, it appears to leave in place strict liability for “pit bull” owners.

Sponsored By: Delegates Cardin, Bromwell, Carr, Feldman, Frush, Guzzone, Haddaway-Riccio, Hogan, Kipke, Luedtke, A. Miller, Morhaim, Reznik, Stocksdale, and F. Turner
Email addresses: Jon.Cardin@house.state.md.us; Eric.Bromwell@house.state.md.us; Alfred.Carr@house.state.md.us; Brian.Feldman@house.state.md.us; Barbara.Frush@house.state.md.us; Guy.Guzzone@house.state.md.us; Jeannie.Haddaway@house.state.md.us; Patrick.Hogan@house.state.md.us; Nicholaus.Kipke@house.state.md.us; Eric.Luedtke@house.state.md.us; Aruna.Miller@house.state.md.us; Dan.Morhaim@house.state.md.us; Kirill.Reznik@house.state.md.us; Nancy.Stocksdale@house.state.md.us; Frank.Turner@house.state.md.us
Entitled: Courts – Civil Liability for Injuries Inflicted by Dogs
Synopsis: Establishing that no person may be held civilly liable for an injury inflicted by a dog of any breed or heritage unless the person had responsibility for exercising control over the dog and was negligent in exercising that control; and making the Act an emergency measure.

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