The 2014 Maryland Legislative Session Begins
January 22, 2014
We wanted to let you know about a couple of important things.
1.) The 2014 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session has begun!
2.) The first House hearing (House Bill 73) is scheduled for January 23
3.) Immediate action steps to take: Watch the upcoming House hearing
The 2014 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session has begun
Two bills have been filed in the House to undo the Tracey v. Solesky ruling, one dangerously dubbed another "compromise" bill (HB 73) and the other, a strict liability bill that only applies when a loose dog attacks (HB 80). If you recall last year, it was impractical to contact House members, who strongly opposed a meaningful strict liability law that included all dog bite victims. Like last year, we believe the focus in 2014 will be upon Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee members who favor a broader strict liability law and can introduce an amendment.
The first House hearing (HB 73) is scheduled for January 23
The 2014 "compromise" bill, constructed and filed by Del. Simmons and Sen. Frosh, is even more insidious than last year's similar "rebuttable presumption" bill filed by the same pair. If you are not an attorney, we do not expect you to understand the deceptive nature of HB 73. In fact, we are still grappling with how best to explain it. In a nutshell, it is nothing more than the "legal speak" illusion of advancing the rights of dog bite victims in Maryland. Briefly, the 2013 bill never guaranteed a jury; this one does with a "twist."
Before we get into the devious nature of HB 73, we want to remind readers that the ONLY compromise to the COMPLETE abrogation of the high court's ruling in Tracey v. Solesky, which deemed pit bulls inherently dangerous and extends this liability to landlords when a tenant's pit bull attacks, is an honest strict liability law that encompasses all victims injured by dogs of all breeds without any hoops, hurdles or legal tricks that merely provide an illusion of this. We are especially appalled with HB 73 by its degree of "legal speak" deception by its sponsors.
According to one Maryland dog bite attorney, "HB 73 is a piece of junk. It is an insurance industry backed effort to deny any dog mauling victim any restitution." Last year, there were 2 huge failings in the Simmons/Frosh "compromise" bill. 1.) The level of proof required by dog owners to overcome the presumption that their dog had vicious or dangerous propensities was abysmally low. This is why the Senate amended the bill, requiring that the dog owner show "clear and convincing" evidence (a higher level of proof). And, 2.) There was no guarantee of a jury ever hearing the case.
The House killed that Senate amendment. See recap of last year's closing hours.
HB 73 leaves the low level of proof in place for the owner of the attacking dog to overcome the presumption that his dog had vicious or dangerous propensities, but now prohibits "a judge in a jury trial from making a certain ruling before the jury returns a verdict." If you do not have legal training in your background, you may not understand what this means. A judge's "directive" to a jury is colossal in its weight to jurors. HB 73 leaves this directive by the judge, intentionally, unaddressed. Which means the judge's directive is foreseeably the following (note the One Free Bite standard):
Example directive: "It is up to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to determine if the evidence of the dog’s peaceful nature, evidence of the dog’s friendliness, etc. is sufficient to rebut this legal presumption. If you find that the defendant has met this burden and has rebutted this presumption of negligence, then in order for you to find for the plaintiffs, you must find that the plaintiffs proved, to your satisfaction, that the dog owner knew or should have known of the vicious or dangerous nature of the dog."
HB 73 is a sham and does not meaningfully advance the rights of Maryland dog mauling victims. Further, it is designed to "make the public think" that this empty dog bite liability law is WORTHY of the 100% abrogation of the high court's ruling. If last year's "rebuttable presumption" compromise bill was a 90% trade in for dog bite victims for a 10% gain in advancement, HB 73 is merely a 20% gain in advancement. If there is going to be ANY legislation that mutes Tracey v. Solesky, all dog bite victims must receive a much greater advancement.
Immediate action steps to take: Watch the upcoming House hearing
We believe that watching the upcoming House hearing on January 23 will be very educational, if only to hear Tony Solesky and a group of attorneys who support an HONEST strict liability law and can poke holes through HB 73. Otherwise, the House is out; no meaningful letters or emails can be sent to them that will make an impact. The action in 2014, like it was during the 2013 Legislative Session, is with the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee. Write to these senators and let them know that HB 73, unadmended, is unacceptable.
January 23, 2pm Eastern
Click here, then go to "House Video" Section > Judiciary
Select January 23
Then click the right arrow button
(You will need to download Real Player (PCor MAC) to watch the video)
Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee Members
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Copy the above block(s) of email addresses as is, commas included, and paste into the To: area of your email.