Earlier this month, an appellate court handed down a decision in a personal injury case involving a plaintiff who was seriously injured after she was attacked by several dogs belonging to the defendant. The case required the court to determine whether the owner of the dogs could be held strictly liable for the injuries caused by the dogs. Additionally, the court had to determine if the plaintiff’s potential negligence in bringing about her own injuries should factor into the jury’s decision.
The case presents several interesting issues for Maryland dog bite victims because Maryland law applies a similar standard to that which is applied in the case. However, under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, a plaintiff who is found to be even the slightest bit at fault for her own injuries will be precluded from recovery. Thus, while the laws applied in the case are different in some ways from those in Maryland, the case is still illustrative of how a similar case could proceed in a Maryland courtroom.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff, who was on a friend’s property hunting squirrels, was attacked by a pack of dogs belonging to the defendant. The plaintiff brought a personal injury lawsuit against the dogs’ owners, arguing that the owner of a dog is strictly liable for any injuries caused by the dog. Thus, under the plaintiff’s argument, there need not be a showing of negligence in order for a dog’s owner to be found liable; proof of ownership is sufficient to establish liability.
The trial court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and instructed the jury that it needed to determine the defendant was the owner of the dogs and was also negligent. The jury determined that the dogs did belong to the defendant but that he was not negligent in any way. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiff. The court explained that, under that state’s law, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their animals. However, the court also explained that the jury should be able to consider whether the plaintiff shared some of the fault in bringing about her own injuries. If so, the jury should then reduce the plaintiff’s total award amount by her own percentage of fault.
Maryland’s Dog Bite Law
As noted above, dog bite law in Maryland is similar to the law discussed in the case above. For example, owners of dogs that injure another person while “running at large” will be held strictly liable. Otherwise, a dog bite victim will need to show that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities. However, there is a presumption that the owner of a dog that causes a serious injury or death knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities. This presumption can be rebutted, but such a finding can only be made by a jury, rather than in a pre-trial motion for summary judgment.
Have You Been Attacked by a Dog?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a Maryland dog attack, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland dog bite lawsuit. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience assisting victims and their families in a wide range of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. personal injury matters, including dog bite cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Premises Liability Case Because Hazard Was “Open and Obvious”, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 18, 2018.
The Revisionary Power of Maryland Courts, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 1, 2018.