Landlord Liability

Do you allow dogs in your rental properties?  Do you have a pet policy in place that restricts certain breeds?

Recently in a 4-3 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that owners of pit bulls, mixed breed pet bulls and the landlord can be held strictly liable for damages resulting from the dogs attack.

Wikipedia states, strict liability is a standard for liability which may exist in either a criminal or civil context. A rule specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his or her acts and omissions regardless of culpability (including fault in criminal law terms, typically the presence of mens rea). Strict liability is prominent in tort law (especially product liability), corporations law, and criminal law.

The new ruling changes the current laws dealing with pit bull attacks.  The simple presence of the animal on the property is enough to establish a case for damages.  The Maryland Court of Appeals concluded that pit bulls and mixed breed pit bulls are “inherently dangerous”.  The justices also believe that their danger justifies imposing greater duties on the pet owner and landlord to hold them liable for any attacks.

What does this mean for you the property owner and how could it affect you?  If you think this doesn’t have anything to do with you because you don’t have property in Maryland your wrong.  Court rulings in one state tend to spread across the country.  Law makers in your state use decisions from other states as justification for new laws.  Attorneys reference these cases in lawsuits.  I would recommend reviewing your company pet policies.  It’s not uncommon to have breed restrictions.  Another thing to think about is requiring your renters to carry Pet Liability insurance.

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