One of the most highly commented blog posts I have had here was when the Maryland Court of Appeals decided Tracey v. Solesky, one of the rare appellate opinions that seemed to make everyone mad. Tracy carved out a pit bull exception and make pit bull owners pretty much strictly liable.
Everything, in this case, was goofy. The court even came back with an amended opinion – how often does that happen? – to say that mixed breeds are not strictly liable which, theoretically, would make the key to the case the tracing of the dog’s bloodlines.
Pit bull lovers and owners demanded that the Internet be shut down. Their passion – and their statistics – forced me to do something rare on the Internet: change my opinion in midstream. Whoever said screaming at someone on the Internet can’t change hearts and minds?
This passion pushed the Maryland Senate last week to unanimously pass a bill that eliminated breed distinctions. Which, is bad news for victims of pit bull attacks (and, let’s face it, plaintiffs’ lawyers). The Senate bill throws a bone — literally no pun originally intended until after I wrote it — to victims by creating strict liability for canines who attack while running at large. But, let’s be honest, that is not most pit bull attacks. About 70% of dog bites occur on the owner’s property.
The one thing that struck me about the anti- Tracey opinion zealots is that they rarely opposed strict liability on dogs. There seemed to be some receptivity to the idea that the problem in dog bite cases is not bad dogs but irresponsible dog owners.