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Landlord may be liable for pit bull attack

BOSTON — A landlord may be liable for injuries suffered by a child in an attack by a tenant’s pit bull, the Court of Special Appeals has ruled in reversing a Baltimore County Circuit Court judgment.

The plaintiffs’ 10-year-old son suffered severe injuries when he was attacked by a pit bull that escaped from a duplex owned by the landlord.

The tenants who owned the dog declared bankruptcy. Consequently, the plaintiff sued the landlord for negligence and strict liability.

The court decided that there was sufficient evidence that the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities for liability to be imposed under state law. In reaching this conclusion, the court noted that an express exculpatory clause was added when the tenants renewed their lease three months before the attack.

The court explained that the evidence “supported the syllogism: (a) the dog exhibited aggression toward anybody who walked near the back of the property; (b) the landlord parked in back of the property on the day of lease renewal; (c) the dog would have exhibited aggression toward the landlord on the day of lease renewal. …

“The emphatic exculpatory language … added to the lease renewal agreement is further support for the inference that the landlord foresaw the risk that one of these pit bulls would harm some person.”

The case is Solesky v. Tracey, CSA No. 2207, Sept. Term 2009. RecordFax # 11-0405-01.