The Court of Appeals of Maryland issued its final ruling in Tracey v. Solesky on August 21, 2012, holding, by a 4-3 decision that landlords are strictly liable for injuries caused by dog bites caused by a tenant’s pure-bred pit bull. The decision was controversial, in that it was the first time that a court in the United States decided that a particular group of dogs was inherently dangerous based solely upon its breed. After a groundswell of outrage by dog owners, the Maryland General Assembly effectively vacated the Tracey decision, by passing Md. Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings § 3-1901. The statute returned the common law of Maryland to its pre-Tracey status, thereby eliminating the “stigmatization” of pit bulls.
Notice that a tenant’s dog is dangerous is not sufficient to hold a landlord liable for its actions, absent a clause in the lease giving the landlord some degree of control over the premises. In addition, a landlord does not become an owner or harborer of his tenant’s dog under D.C. Code § 8-1901 (4) simply by virtue of being a landlord. Even if a landlord were to be deemed a harborer of a tenant’s dog, nothing in the statutory scheme imposes liability on the owner or harborer in the absence of an administrative determination that the dog is dangerous.
The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the Court of Special Appeals and found that the communications by students and their parents to school officials alleging that a teacher engaged in sexual harassment and discrimination were protected by absolute privilege, and thus, those communications cannot serve the basis for a defamation claim by a teacher.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals determined that a tortfeasor’s vehicle was not an “uninsured motor vehicle,” within the meaning of Ann. Maryland Code, Insurance § 19-509(a), where the single limit for liability of $50,000 for the tortfeasor’s policy exceeded the $25,000 per person limit of liability for the UM coverage of the second policy, despite the fact that there were four injured claimants resulting in an apportionment of payments, the largest of which $28,451, an amount greater than the $25,000 liability limit for the UM coverage. The Court specifically rejected the claimant’s argument that the tortfeasor’s vehicle qualified as an “uninsured motor vehicle” under § 19-509(a)(2)(ii) because the amount available to her under that policy ($28,541) was less than the $50,000 per accident limit of liability on the second policy’s UM coverage.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that the earth movement exclusion of a homeowners’ insurance policy was not limited to naturally occurring events and, therefore, the exclusion applied to earth movement caused by water from a frozen pipe. Moreover, the sump pump rider to the homeowners’ insurance policy which covered losses from overflow was subject to the earth movement exclusion, and, thus, the policy did not cover losses from movement of saturated soil resulting from a sump pump failure.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that personal jurisdiction could not be established over a manufacturer under the District of Columbia’s long-arm statute merely because the manufacturer had sold goods to a nationwide distributor who, in turn, had distributed the goods at issue to a store in the District of Columbia.
The Court of Special Appeals found that misconduct that renders an employee incompatible with an employer may constitute “just cause” even if the action is not actually injurious to the employer’s business or gross or evil, where the employee is in position requiring trust and the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee is untrustworthy.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that an insurer owed no duty to defend an insured against allegations that the insured made defamatory statements injuring his professional reputation as the damages did not involve “bodily injury” or “property damage” within the meaning of a standard homeowner’s policy. Moreover, an insurer’s reservation of its right to deny coverage for a defamation claim is sufficient to preserve the insurer’s right to deny coverage for defense costs incurred by the insured in the underlying action, as a reservation to deny “coverage” refers to both the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that a judgment finding one defendant not liable does not abrogate that defendant’s status as a joint tort-feasor pursuant to a release which designates that defendant as a joint-tortfeasor, and therefore the liable defendant is entitled to a reduction of any judgment entered against him to the extent that the settlement with the non-liable party exceeded the pro rata share of one half.
The United States District Court for the District of Maryland excluded a human factors expert from testifying where his testimony that there was precipitation in the area on the evening on which a social guest slipped and fell, that the temperature was sufficiently cold to freeze any such precipitation, that there was insufficient illumination on a driveway, that the change and slope of the driveway may have “kinesthetically” led the guest to believe that he was already at the street, and that the slope of the driveway may have violated building construction standards was not entirely supported by otherwise demonstrable fact, some of it related to matters within the common knowledge of the jury, and it had the risk of being more prejudicial than helpful to the trier of fact pursuant to Fed.Rules Evid.Rule 702, 28 U.S.C.A.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that a condominium association has the authority to promulgate parking regulations covering its property where the regulation was passed only after the association received numerous complaints, the regulation was not applied discriminatorily or unfairly, the regulation was adopted pursuant to proper procedures, and the condominium owners received twelve months notice before it was put into effect.