DogsBite.org files amicus brief in landmark appeals case that hopes to expand liability out to landlords when a tenant's pit bull attacks. Personal injury attorneys may soon have a new argument in their tool chest and landlords may have new concerns.
Austin, TX January 16, 2012 -- DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims' group dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks, announces amicus brief filing in Solesky v. Tracey, recently argued in the Court of Appeals of Maryland. The case involves the parents of a young boy seeking damages for injuries inflicted by a pit bull owned by a landlord's tenant. Using a new legal theory, the plaintiff hopes to uphold that landlords may be liable when a tenant's pit bull attacks a person.
The amicus brief, which literally is, a "friend of the court" was filed due to DogsBite.org's strong interest in this subject matter, the protection of pit bull attack victims in circumstances when a renter is "judgment proof," has no means to pay the medical bills of the victim, has insufficient coverage or was refused coverage by his or her insurance carrier due to owning this type of dog breed. In the case of Solesky v. Tracey, the claims against the dog's owners were discharged in bankruptcy.
The amicus brief dispels the many myths about pit bulls perpetuated by pit bull advocates and national animal welfare organizations, provides evidence of the seriousness of the physical injuries that are reasonably expected to result from pit bull attacks and provides support for the proposition that pit bulls should be considered dangerous animals and public safety hazards. Attorney Don Bauermeister of Omaha, Nebraska wrote the amicus brief on behalf of DogsBite.org.
The key lesson to be learned is this: The difference between other breeds of dogs and pit bulls is like the difference between a firecracker and a hand grenade – no one can predict which is more likely to explode, but one will clearly cause more damage. "Dangerous" is not only evaluated in terms of statistical probability of the undesired event, but the damage to be reasonably expected should that event occur. (Brief for DogsBite.org as Amicus Curiae, Solesky v. Tracey, October 20, 2011 pg. 9)
Other aspects of the brief included highlighting the historical significance of the 1991 Colorado Supreme Court's decision upholding the 1989 Denver pit bull ban and Denver's legal victory in 2004 upholding their home rule authority. The 2004 ruling found that the science supporting the Colorado Supreme Court's decision was still valid, and that the only new scientific evidence provided even further justification for concluding pit bulls were more dangerous than other breeds of dogs.
If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, victims of pit bull attacks in Maryland will have a greater chance to hold landlords liable after a mauling, thus increasing the number of victims who can gain attorneys. Such an opinion may also entice more attorneys representing landlords to settle. Because it will be an appellate decision, a favorable opinion will extend beyond Maryland into other jurisdictions. In 2009, a Massachusetts appellate court issued a similar opinion (Nutt v. Florio, 75 Mass. 42).
View the recent oral arguments in the Court of Appeals of Maryland
September Term 2011 / 01-09-12
DogsBite.org is a national dog bite victims' group dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks. Through our work, we hope to protect both people and pets from future attacks. Our website, www.dogsbite.org, was launched in October 2007 and contains a wide collection of data to help policymakers and citizens learn about dangerous dog breeds. Our research focuses on pit bull type dogs. Due to selective breeding practices that emphasize aggression and tenacity, this class of dogs negatively impacts communities the most. Our website hosts important dog bite studies, U.S. dog bite fatalities and other key bibliographies. In the Legislating Dogs portion of our site, we offer examples of breed-specific laws and documentation of the constitutionality of these laws. The Victim Realities section provides a glance into the unforgettable histories victims leave behind and much more. DogsBite.org operates out of Austin, Texas and can be contacted via: 512-650-8510 or . Research contributions and active website participation stems from individuals that span the United States of America and across the world.