Maryland General Assembly Adjourns Special Session Without Passing Pit Bull Legislation
The August special session of the Maryland General Assembly ended without the passage of a bill to address the impact of the Court of Appeals opinion in Tracey v. Solesky. The court in Tracey v. Solesky held that a victim of a pit bull attack only needs to show that an owner, or other person who has the right to control a pit bull’s presence on a property, knows or has reason to know that the dog is a pit bull or pit bull mix for purposes of evaluating liability. To read more about the Tracey v. Solesky opinion and its impact on community associations please see our previous article on the subject entitled “Maryland Now Considers Pit Bulls and Pit Bull Mixes Inherently Dangerous Animals.”
Although the House and Senate both passed versions of legislation addressing this issue, the special session adjourned without the Senate taking up the House's proposed legislation. Both sets of proposed legislation imposed a strict liability standard on owners of all dogs, not just pit bulls; however they eliminated the strict liability standard for persons who have the right to control the presence of a dog on the property, such as landlords and potentially community associations. Given the adjournment of the special legislative session, it is unlikely that the legislature will address the pit bull issue again until the 2013 legislative session which begins in January of 2013.
Currently the Tracey v. Solesky opinion remains in flux, as a motion for reconsideration was filed with the court. A motion for reconsideration has the effect of staying the ruling – or stated more simply – the ruling has no force and effect until the motion for reconsideration has been ruled upon. Therefore, although communities are not required to act immediately they should be in a position to act and adopt rules and regulations regarding pit bulls (as more fully explained in our previous article on this issue) if and when the Court of Appeals denies the motion for reconsideration or otherwise issue a ruling modifying the prior ruling. We will continue to keep you apprised of any new developments.
Ruth Katz is a community associations attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Maryland who helps boards and managers with contentious issues such as pit bulls. For more information about how this ruling may impact your community, contact Ruth at (301) 657-0188 or email@example.com.