When a person is bitten by a dog in Maryland, it can be difficult to receive compensation from the dog’s owner for injuries caused by the bite. This is due to Maryland’s law that requires the person who was bitten to prove that the dog owner knew that the dog was dangerous, which is generally proven by showing the dog had injured someone before. This is known as the “one free bite” rule because dog owners are sometimes not held responsible the first time their dog injures someone.
In the recent case of Tracey v. Solesky, the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, changed this law as it applies to pit bulls. The Court ruled that when a pit bull injures someone, the owner is responsible even if they had no prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous. This is known as strict liability. The ruling also holds landlords who allow their tenants to have a pit bull responsible when the pit bull injures someone.
Plaxen & Adler believes that this rule should be extended to all dogs, regardless of breed, because when a dog injures someone it is only right that the owner be held responsible, regardless of their knowledge of the dog’s viciousness. Plaxen & Adler believes it is unfair to place the burden of a dog bite injury on the injured person while allowing the dog owner to escape responsibility.
Currently, 33 states have strict liability for dog bites. In the recent special session of the Maryland General Assembly, attorney Bruce Plaxen of Plaxen & Adler urged the legislature to adopt a bill that would hold all dog owners responsible when their dog injures someone, regardless of whether the owner previously knew the dog was dangerous. The bill was passed by the Senate; however the House failed to pass it. When the legislature re-convenes, Plaxen & Adler will again urge the General Assembly to pass a law that holds dog owners responsible when their dog injures another, in order to protect people injured by a dog from having to bear the burden on their injuries on their own.