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Maryland court makes injury claims easier after pit bull attacks

A recent ruling by a state appeals court has dog bite victims celebrating and pit bull owners and others growling. The Maryland Court of Appeals decision declares pit bulls an "inherently dangerous" breed and says that owners of pit bulls or pit bull mixes are liable for damages in cases of dog bites or attacks. That liability also extends to landlords who rent to pit bull owners. It means, essentially, that victims seeking to file a personal injury suit will have an easier time proving their cases.

The court's ruling stems from the case of a young boy who suffered life-threatening injuries when he was attacked by a pit bull in Towson, Maryland, in 2007. The boy's family filed a lawsuit against the dog owner's landlord, but the judge dismissed the case, saying there was no evidence of neglect. The Court of Special Appeals later overturned that ruling and last week, the Court of Appeals affirmed it.

Last week's decision means victims of pit bull attacks or bites no longer have to prove the owner of the dog knew it was dangerous; they only have to prove the owner knew the dog was a pit bull or pit bull mix.

Not surprisingly, the Humane Society and similar groups that provide shelter and care for animals are unhappy with the ruling and worry that it could deter people from adopting the breed. Many animal advocates have said the court has overstepped its authority.

While it's true that not all pit bulls will necessarily attack, there have been at least seven instances of serious attacks on Maryland residents over the past 13 years that have resulted in serious injuries or death. For victims of these and other pit bull attacks, the appeals court ruling means that they won't have to go through such a long and arduous court battle to ensure they're compensated for their medical bills after undergoing such a traumatic experience.

Source: MSNBC, "Maryland court finds pit bulls are 'inherently dangerous'," Chris Gordon, May 2, 2012

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