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August 16, 2017

Statutory Duties to consider in Underwriting (including some that deal with animals)

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By:  Patricia McHugh Lambert, Esquire

Keep in mind that statutes or ordinances can be a source of a duty of care towards members of a specific class. See, e.g., Kiriakos v. Phillips, 448 Md. at 495, 139 A.3d 1006 (concluding that a social host owes a duty to persons injured as a result of a minor’s underage drinking, where a statute provided that “an adult may not knowingly and willfully allow an individual under the age of 21 years actually to possess or consume an alcoholic beverage at a residence”); Blackburn Ltd. P’ship v. Paul, 438 Md. at 125, 128, 90 A.3d 464 (concluding that an apartment complex owes a duty to unsupervised children where a regulation stated that “an owner shall ensure that a recreational pool … is completely surrounded by a barrier that … does not allow the passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter,” the size a young child’s head); Wietzke v. Chesapeake Conference Ass’n, 421 Md. at 392–95, 26 A.3d 931 (concluding that a landowner owes a duty to its neighbors where an ordinance stated that “[a] person must not engage in any land-disturbing activity or by any action cause or permit any soil, earth, sand, gravel, rock, stone, or other material, to be deposited upon or to roll, flow, or wash upon or over the premises of another in a manner to cause damage”); Brooks v. Lewin Realty III, Inc., 378 Md. at 83, 89, 835 A.2d 616 (concluding that a landlord owed a duty to the occupants of a rental unit where ordinances stated that “[a]ll walls, ceilings, woodwork, doors and windows shall be kept clean and free of any flaking, loose, or peeling paint” and that “[a]ll interior loose or peeling wall covering or paint shall be removed”); Moore v. Myers, 161 Md.App. 349, 364, 868 A.2d 954 (2005) (concluding that owners of pit bull terriers owed a duty to persons attacked by their dogs where an ordinance stated that “[t]he owner shall maintain the dog within a building or a secure kennel” and that “[w]henever the dog is removed from the building or kennel it shall be secured by an unbreakable or unseverable leash and maintained under the control of an adult). A risk management strategy should include deep knowledge of regulated activity and knowledgeable outside counsel to advise you as to new decisions prescribing duties in light of regulated risks.

Patricia McHughLambert has over 35 years of experience in handling complex commercial litigation and insurance matters. Ms. Lambert has worked on national class actions, significant litigation and regulatory matters for Fortune 500 companies. She has also assisted small and mid-sized companies and business executives with contract, real estate and commercial disputes that needed to be resolved quickly and efficiently. Ms. Lambert is best known as an attorney who knows the field of insurance. She has represented insurers, policyholders, and insurance producers in disputes both in court and before the Maryland Insurance Administration.  Ms. Lambert can be contacted at 410-339-6759 and plambert@pklaw.com.