Maryland Imposes Strict Liability on Pit Bull Owners and Landlords

by Monty Yolles on November 1, 2012

Strict Liability for Pit Bull Owners

Earlier this year, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision in the case of Tracey v. Solesky, ruling that pit bull dogs are inherently dangerous and it is reasonably foreseeable that the dogs will cause injuries to others.  This standard of law is known as strict liability – in other words, if you own a pit bull or allow one to be kept on your property, then you are going to be held liable if the dog hurts someone, even if the dog never attacked anyone before. 

The case began when 10-year-old Dominic Solesky was attacked by a pit bull.  The child suffered severe wounds to his leg, described by the Court of Appeals as “gruesome.”  Necessary medical care included five hours of surgery and multiple blood transfusions, a 17-day hospital stay, additional surgeries, and a year of physical rehabilitation.

As it turned out, evidence showed the dog had attacked another child earlier the same day.  The owner had restrained the dog and put him back in his enclosure, but the dog escaped again and mauled Dominic.

Tracey filed a motion to reconsider the court’s ruling, which was granted in part and denied in part.  In essence, the appellate court agreed to rescind the portion of its opinion that applied the strict liability standard to cross-bred pit bulls.  Judge Wilner, writing for the majority, stated, “I would grant the motion for reconsideration, in part, to delete any reference to cross-bred pit bulls, so that the Court’s holding would apply only to pit bulls that are not cross-breds.”

Although animal rights activists are not pleased by the overall decision to hold pit bull owners and landlords strictly liable, the ruling sends a clear message to those who choose to own pit bulls or allow them to be kept on their property:  Owners of pit bulls, landlords and property owners are strictly liable for the victims’ injuries, regardless of whether the dogs previously exhibited vicious behavior, due to the dogs’ inherently dangerous nature.

Preexisting law still stands that an owner of any other breed of dog may be liable for injuries it causes if the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a propensity for viciousness, either by virtue of his breed, training, or previous behavior.

Like we’ve said before, every case is fact-specific, and you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to evaluate the facts related to your case and help you choose the right course of action.

At The Yolles Legal Group, we specialize in restoring people’s lives.  We will fight for your rights and seek monetary damages if you were injured due to another person or company’s negligence.  Monty Yolles, founder of THE YOLLES LEGAL GROUP, is an experiencedMarylandpersonal injury attorney who can review your case and help you navigate the legal system on your road to recovery.  Call Monty Yolles today at (301)670-0443 to discuss your case, or send an email inquiry to

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