Defenses to Dog Bite Cases

If you or a loved has being the victim of a dog bite you be contemplating pursuing a claim against the dog owner and landlord involved. As part of evaluating where you have a case, you need to review the facts of how the bite occurred from a balanced point of view and determine if the dog owner has potential defenses.

Common defenses in dog bite cases include:

Contributory negligence

Maryland is a contributory negligence state which holds that a victim cannot recover compensation for injuries if his own actions or omissions contributed as little as 1% toward the cause of the injuries.

Parental Negligence

While rare, a parent’s negligence may be considered an independent and superseding cause of the child’s injuries.


Dog owners do not owe a duty to trespassers whether intentional or unintentional.

Assumption of the Risk

This common law defense is available in all negligence cases and dog bite cases no exception. If the victim was teasing, tormenting, abusing, or provoking the dog he may be found to have assumed the risk of the consequences of his actions.

§ 3-1901. Personal injury or death caused by dog.

(a) Rebuttable presumption of owner’s knowledge. —

(1) In an action against an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.

(2) Notwithstanding any other law or rule, in a jury trial, the judge may not rule as a matter of law that the presumption has been rebutted before the jury returns a verdict.

(b) Common law of liability for other than owner. — In an action against a person other than an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, the common law of liability relating to attacks by dogs against humans that existed on April 1, 2012, is retained as to the person without regard to the breed or heritage of the dog.

(c) Liability of owner. — The owner of a dog is liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog, while the dog is running at large, unless the injury, death, or loss was caused to the body or property of a person who was:

(1) Committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner;

(2) Committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person; or

(3) Teasing, tormenting, abusing, or provoking the dog.

(d) Limitation of effect of section. — This section does not affect:

(1) Any other common law or statutory cause of action; or

(2) Any other common law or statutory defense or immunity.