Aftermath of the August Special Session
August 20, 2012
Last week was an exceptionally busy one, marked by victories and violent fatal dog maulings carried out by pit bulls. In the late evening of August 14, two extremely important victories came to fruition:The Senate rejected the corrupt House bill that would have limited strict liability to at-large dog attacks (well under 50% of all dog attacks), and would have added the defense of contributory negligence for dog owners.
Currently, contributory negligence is defense for dog owners in Maryland, but this may be changing. Once again, the Court of Appeals has signaled to legislators the need to "come out of the dark ages" and provide victims a better route to compensation. Del. Benjamin Kramer, specifically, wants contributory negligence "written into the new strict liability statute" so that the Court, as Kramer said in June, "can't take it away."
In other words, if the Court moves Maryland to a comparative negligence state in the coming months, Kramer wants to ensure that dog bite victims do not gain these important benefits and are stuck with contributory negligence written into the statute.
Unless there is another Special Session called before January, the Tracey Court ruling stands until the next legislative session in January 2013. We are hoping the Court will issue a response to the Reconsideration Motion before the end of the year. The Court is expected to reaffirm its decision in Tracey v. Solesky in their response.
Video of Sen. Jamie Raskin explaining why the Senate rejected the House bill
Late that same night, voters in Miami-Dade affirmed the 23-year old pit bull ban. The margin was not minor with 63% to 37% favoring keeping the ban in place.
On the heels of these two events, two fatal dog attacks occurred. Charles Hagerman, 44-years old, was mauled to death by two pet pit bulls in Chicago and 23-year old Rebecca Carey of Decatur, Georgia -- a rescuer of dangerous dog breeds -- was mauled to death by one or all five dogs she was caring for: two pit bulls, two presa canarios and a boxer-mix.
What to Expect in January
As purely an opinion, it appears the Senate is far more versed in the issue of strict liability and the Tracey Court decision than members of the House. We expect the House to hold new hearings beginning in January and hopefully will become better versed at that time.
New strict liability bills will be introduced and more wrangling between the House and Senate will occur. We also expect new state dangerous dog legislation to be introduced along with a clause that prohibits Maryland municipalities from enacting breed-specific laws.
In the meanwhile, you can write to House Judiciary Committee members and let them know that strict-liability should apply to all dog owners when their dog bites whether the bite occurrs on or off the dog owner's property.
House Judiciary Committee email addresses
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