Posts Tagged ‘dog bites’

“Why is a dog such a liability bomb?”

Daniel Fisher looked into the issue of dog bite liability after a utility worker’s suit charged him with failure to confine his dog (which was in fact confined by an electric fence) setting off a scramble at insurance renewal time to find a way both to keep his house insured and not lose his beloved pet.

Why is a dog such a liability bomb? Blame lawyer-friendly state laws that make it almost impossible to contest a dog-bite claim, especially when there are only two witnesses to the incident and one of them isn’t talking. Dog bite claims now account for a third of homeowners’ insurance liability payouts, according to the Insurance Information Institute, at more than $530 million a year, up more than 75% since 2003. Some of the most devastating claims don’t even involve bites: A $100,000 “dog bite” claim might stem from someone running from the dog and tripping in your driveway. Dog-human contact is not required.

Laws that separate dogs from owners, cont’d

We’ve covered “breed-specific” legal limitations on dog ownership, which often take the form of legislated curbs on particular breeds seen as dangerous, but have also cropped up in judicial rulings designating some breeds as inherently dangerous for purposes of strict liability. As we noted in 2013, after Maryland courts established elevated liability for bites by pit bulls, the result was continued pressure by insurers and landlords for families to abandon or relinquish pets “and a resulting flow of related breeds into the animal shelter system.” Now a story from Prince George’s County, Maryland, one of the larger jurisdictions to ban pit bulls: “A pit bull who stood by her injured owner while their house was on fire is now losing her home — not to the fire itself, but to a law prohibiting pit bulls from living in the county. … Back in May, Michigan’s Hazel Park lifted its pit bull ban in the wake of public outcry, after a dog credited with saving her owner from domestic violence was subsequently thrown out of town.” [Arin Greenwood, Huffington Post]

Maryland roundup

Maryland roundup

  • Reminder: SB 353, which would ban bringing of knives and other weapons onto private school property whatever the school’s wishes, up for hearing at 1 p.m. Wed. Feb. 26 [text, Senate, related Virginia] With Ninth Circuit’s Peruta decision, Maryland now one of only six holdout states to resist any recognition of gun carry rights [David Kopel]
  • Slew of labor proposals moving through Annapolis would require employers to offer paid sick leave, push unionization on community college employees, and require employers to pay interns’ transportation costs. Study finds boosting state’s minimum wage would cost jobs [WaPo]
  • Supremely irresponsible: state already hobbled by nation’s slowest foreclosure process, but NAACP, Casa de Maryland and Legislative Black Caucus demand six-month foreclosure moratorium on top of that [Washington Post; earlier on Maryland foreclosure law here, here (couple spends five years in million-dollar home without making mortgage payment), here, etc.]
  • Review of recent developments in asbestos litigation in the state [Lisa Rickard, Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • Goodbye to another Free State tradition? Senate votes ban on sale of grain alcohol, with urging from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg nanny crew [Washington Post]
  • Just say no to the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority [Mark Newgent, Baltimore Sun]
  • Sen. Zirkin “litigates dog-bite cases on behalf of plaintiffs” and is player on dog bite bill [Insurance Journal]

White House: dog breed bans a bad idea

It isn’t really the federal government’s business one way or the other, but the Obama administration is at least lending moral support to the idea that animal control laws should not single out particular dog breeds as inherently ultradangerous. A court decision in Maryland establishing elevated liability for bites by pit bulls has resulted in continued pressure for pet abandonment and a resulting flow of related breeds into the animal shelter system. [Arin Greenwood, HuffPo; earlier here, here, etc.]

Criminal background checks… for dog owners?

North Carolinians should hold on to their long-established right to own whatever dog breed they prefer without having to petition the authorities for permission, argues Patrick at Popehat. The bill, filed by state Rep. Rodney Moore (D-Charlotte), would give police departments discretion to deny permits to would-be owners and would require that owners “submit to a criminal background check and enroll in a four hour course sponsored by the Humane Society on responsible ownership of pit bulls, rottweilers, mastiffs, chows, and similar ‘aggressive dog breeds.'” More: OhMiDog.

P.S. Flagged by GraniteGrok, a commenter at the News & Observer: “When are we going to close the dog show loophole?”

Maryland pit bull law: “Lawyers will have the last bite”

In the aftermath of a controversial decision by the state’s highest court (earlier here, here, here, here), etc.) the Maryland legislature is proceeding in its task of devising new rules to govern lawsuits over dog bite injuries:

But the House and Senate versions differ markedly on legal liability for a pet owner when his or her dog bites someone. The House bill would allow an owner to show a “preponderance of the evidence” that a pet did not have a tendency to bite. The Senate version requires a stricter legal standard of “clear and convincing” proof that the dog is not aggressive — making it easier for victims of bites to sue and win.

It does not require a law degree to figure out that without clear rules on what makes a dog safe, lawyers will see bite victims as cash cows. [Sen. Bobby] Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, [who sits on the Judicial Proceedings Committee that crafted the bill,] apparently already does. A visit to his website,, makes it clear. One of the first images is a white dog that looks like a pit bull, teeth bared, lunging against its leash.

After noting that victims of dog bites should seek medical attention, he suggests they “Call the Law Office of Bobby Zirkin at 410-356-4455 immediately and come in for your free consultation on this important matter.”

The committee’s chair, Sen. Brian Frosh of Montgomery County, also practices with an injury firm, though his own practice tends toward commercial disputes. [Marta Mossburg, Frederick News-Post] Incidentally, the weekly adopt-an-animal feature of the same newspaper is now filled with pictures of ownerless dogs with pit bull lineage.

Maryland roundup

I’ve been writing more lately on policy issues arising in my adopted state, such as the boat tax and Baltimore’s fight with liquor stores, and you can keep up by following my local Twitter account @walterolsonmd:

  • If you think the current federal crusade on disparate minority school discipline rates is unreasonable, check out the Maryland state board of education’s even loopier plans for racial quotas in discipline [Hans Bader and letter, Roger Clegg/Center for Equal Opportunity] “However, there’s no plan for gender balance in school discipline.” [Joanne Jacobs]
  • After the state’s high court stigmatized pit bulls as distinctively dangerous, the state legislature has (as warned of in this space) reacted by extending liability to owners of all dogs, “first bite” or not [WaPo] “The trial lawyer’s expert just testified he sees dogs as a man or woman’s ego on the end of a leash.” [Mike Smigiel]
  • A Washington Post article asks: “Is the ‘nanny state’ in Montgomery working?” (No, but it makes councilors in the affluent liberal redoubt feel good about themselves.) And even in Montgomery, councilman George Leventhal (D-At Large) spots a Laffer Curve [Dan Mitchell, Cato at Liberty]
  • Also in Montgomery, county slates vote next month on union-backed bill to require service contractors to take over employment of displaced workers for 90 days [Gazette] Leventhal is caustic: “I do not only work for SEIU 32BJ. My colleagues may feel they do.” [Rachel Baye, Examiner]
  • Despite its solicitude for the SEIU, the county’s concern for low-income workers has its limits, as when property owners seek to increase the stock of affordable housing near jobs by dividing one-family residences into two-family [Ben Ross, Greater Greater Washington]
  • “Doctors, hospitals concerned about hefty malpractice awards” [Baltimore Sun]
  • MD public pension planners whistle through graveyard [Hayley Peterson, Washington Examiner, Tom Coale/HoCoRising, Ivan Osorio, CEI “Open Market”] The state still hasn’t shaken its AAA bond rating, but Annapolis lawmakers are working to change that by unionizing more state workers [Washington Times]

Maryland pit bull ruling: careful what you ask for

Last month Maryland’s highest court, adopting what is known as a “breed-specific” standard, declared pit bulls inherently dangerous and subject to strict liability for their owners. Humane and rescue activists were alarmed at the prospect of insurance-rate pressure on pit owners and an influx into animal shelters of surrendered pets who, even if well-behaved, might prove unadoptable and end up euthanized. They should have been careful what they asked for. A panel of the Maryland House of Delegates headed by Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore) has now taken up the issue and apparently plans to address the complained-of breed disparity by proposing to extend strict liability to all breeds of dog, abolishing the longstanding “one-bite” rule that shields owners from responsibility where a pet has not previously been known to cause trouble. Why is it somehow not surprising that in Annapolis the views of attorneys would hold more sway and those of dog-rescue folks less? [AP, Julie Scharper/Baltimore Sun, more background: Miller.