Compromise House Bill Introduced, HB 78

January 16, 2013

We wanted to let you know about some recent developments.

1.)    "Compromise" bill has been introduced
2.)    Tony Solesky's recent talk with WBAL
3.)    General Assembly launches new website
4.)    Previous Support the Court alerts are online

"Compromise" bill has been introduced

     Del. Luiz Simmons introduced HB 78 this week, a bill that thoroughly dismantles the Tracey Court's ruling. Simmons is announcing the new legislation at 3 pm Eastern Thursday, January 17. In a nutshell, HB 78 codifies the One Bite rule, but changes who must prove what. Now the burden is on the dog's owner to prove their "lack of knowledge" of the dog's viciousness or propensity to bite.
     Said another way, the proposed "rebuttable presumption" is that the dog owner can prove ignorance of his dog being vicious or having the propensity to bite.
     The new bill is an profound leap backwards from the strict liability bill that was discussed in the August Special Session. Though we are still awaiting further legal analysis of HB 78, under the proposed legislation, a victim still must be ready and able to prove a dog's vicious tendency (after the dog owner testifies that the dog had always been "loving" prior to attacking) in order to receive compensation.*
     HB 78 does not advance the rights of Maryland dog bite victims in any meaningful way.
     We expect HB 78 to be the centerpiece bill for the 2013 session. We also expect Maryland press members to not understand the implication of the proposed "rebuttable presumption"  standard during tomorrow's press conference or that the heart of this bill is a covert effort to repackage the One Bite rule under a different name. HB 78 merely sounds or appears to accomplish something.
     HB 78 is the direct result of Maryland legislators caving to the lobbying efforts of landlords and insurance groups that seek to limit compensation for dog bite victims.

The bill's language:

(a) In an action against an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.

(b) In an action against an owner of real property or other person who has the right to control the presence of a dog on the property other than the owner of the dog, including a landlord, condominium council of unit owners, cooperative housing corporation, or homeowners association, for damages for personal injury or death caused by a dog, the common law of liability relating to attacks by dogs against humans that existed on April 1, 2012, is retained as to the owner of real property or other person who has the right to control the presence of a dog on the property without regard to the breed or heritage of the dog.

SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That, subject to Section 3 of this Act, it is the intent of the General Assembly that this Act abrogate the holding of the Court of Appeals in Tracey v. Solesky, No. 53, September Term 2011.

Other sponsors of the bill include:

     Del. Joseph Vallario (chair, Judiciary Committee), Del. Luiz Simmons (member, Judiciary Committee), Del. Kevin Kelly (member, Judiciary Committee), Del. Curtis Anderson (member Pit Bull Task Force and Judiciary Committee), Del. Eric Bromwell (member, Pit Bull Task Force), Del. Michael Smigiel (member Pit Bull Task Force), Del. Benjamin Kramer (member Pit Bull Task Force) and Del. Jon Cardin.
     HB 78 has been introduced, but has not been passed. We expect there will be at least one public, or invitation only hearing. We will write as soon as we know more.

You can write to Senate and House Judiciary Committee members and let them know the HB 78 does not advance the rights of Maryland dog bite victims. Maryland must join over 30 other U.S. states by adopting a strict-liability statue for all dog bite victims.

*HB 78 does not say what the dog owner must prove, so one must start at the mimimum (the dog owner only knew his dog to be gentle and loving).

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee,,,,,,,,,,

House Judiciary Committee

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Additional news

Tony's recent talk with WBAL

Tony Solesky talks about what he would like to see state lawmakers do regarding the court of Appeals ruling (this interview occured prior to the release of HB 78).
Listen to the short talk | Read related article (January 10, 2013)

Assembly launches new website

The Maryland General Assembly has launched a new website:

Previous alerts are online

Last year's alerts from Support the Court are now online. You can scan the previous alerts and their topics here:
Alerts! archive

Thank you for your supportive actions!

Visit: Maryland Dog Bite Victim Advocacy