Citation719 A.2d 119,351 Md. 554
Decision Date07 October 1998
Docket NumberNo. 74,74
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Melvin J. Sykes (C. Christopher Brown, Andrew D. Freeman, Lauren E. Willis, Brown, Goldstein & Levy, L.L.P., all on brief), Baltimore, for Petitioners.

E. Dale Adkins, III (Gregory L. VanGeison, Anderson, Coe & King, L.L.P., on brief), Baltimore, for Respondents.

M. Albert Figinski, Weinberg & Green, L.L.C., Baltimore, for the Apartment Builders and Owners Council of the Home Builders Ass'n of Maryland, the Maryland Multi-Housing Ass'n, Inc., and the Property Owners Ass'n of Greater Baltimore, Inc., Amici Curiae.

Argued before BELL, C.J., ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, RAKER and WILNER, JJ., and DALE R. CATHELL, Judge (Specially Assigned).


We issued a writ of certiorari in this tort case primarily to decide the issue of whether a landlord of an apartment complex owes a duty to social guests of a tenant who, while in the tenant's apartment, are injured or killed by a highly dangerous pit bull dog kept by the tenant, when the landlord knew of the dog's presence and was aware of the dog's dangerousness, when the presence of the dog was in violation of the lease, and where the landlord could have taken steps to abate the danger.


Shelly Morton leased apartment A-1 in an apartment building located at 6012 Amberwood Road, Baltimore, Maryland, from October 9, 1993, through October 31, 1994. The apartment building was managed by the defendant Monocle Management, Ltd. and owned by the defendant Amberwood Associates Limited Partnership, Inc. The lease Morton signed contained the following provisions:

"The Landlord agrees to lease to the Applicant(s) the above specified apartment so long as Applicant(s) qualify for tenancy under the criteria established by the owners of the apartment project.

* * * * *


"The resident agrees to comply with the following rules and regulations which shall be deemed to be part of the lease. Breach of these rules and regulations shall be deemed to be a default of the lease.

* * * * *

"18. Not to have any pets on the premises."

It is undisputed that Morton kept her boyfriend's dog, a pit bull named Rampage, in her apartment. Sometimes she kept the dog chained outside, on the grounds of the apartment complex. The dog was not normally aggressive toward persons when Morton was present, but, when she was absent, Rampage would attempt to attack people in his vicinity. In the trial court below, several employees of the defendants testified about dangerous encounters involving the dog, that the dog was "vicious," and that the incidents involving the dog were reported to the defendants' resident manager or the manager on duty.

William Wenger, a maintenance supervisor employed by the defendants, testified that on two occasions he was unable to complete service calls in Morton's apartment because of the dog, that "it was a vicious dog," that on both occasions he immediately reported the incidents to the manager of the apartment complex, and that on both occasions he wrote the reason for his failure to complete the service calls on the service ticket. Wenger also testified that porters were unable to pick up trash behind the apartment building when Rampage was chained behind the building because "[t]he dog came after them." One of the porters, Ray Hall, corroborated Wenger's testimony and stated that he reported the matter to the resident manager of the apartment complex.

David Jones, a maintenance technician employed by the defendants, testified that in the fall or early winter of 1993-1994, when he was attempting to perform maintenance duties in Morton's apartment, he was unable to do so because the dog "jumped at me ... and, you know, lunged at me." Jones stated that he reported the incident to the manager on duty at the time.

Another maintenance technician employed by the defendants, Phillip Monroe, testified about several incidents when he observed Rampage exhibiting aggressive behavior, both in Morton's apartment and when the dog was chained outside. Monroe stated that he promptly reported each incident to the manager. Included were incidents when Rampage "jumped at me ... like he wanted to get to me" and when Monroe had to "jump a fence to get away from the dog." Monroe also testified about seeing an incident when Rampage was chained outside and a boy

"was coming down the walkway and ... the thing snapped and the boy ran and he jumped the other fence at the end of the west side of the back and tried to get up to the second floor of the balcony. The dog was on him."

Monroe stated that he immediately ran to the office and told the manager that the "pit bull was after a guy in the back." Monroe further testified that the dog would regularly growl at children in the area. According to Monroe, the various incidents he testified about occurred over a two month period.1

On February 9, 1994, Shanita Matthews and her 16-month-old son Tevin Williams visited Morton and Morton's 5-year-old son Darnell at Morton's apartment. The children were playing together in the living room, and the adults were seated at the dining room table putting together a puzzle when Morton was called away from the apartment. Shortly after Morton left the apartment, Rampage attacked Tevin. Rampage grabbed Tevin by the neck and was shaking him back and forth. Matthews was unable to free Tevin from Rampage's jaws. Matthews then called 911 and yelled for Morton to assist her.

Morton reentered the apartment and was also unable to free Tevin. She grabbed a knife, and, while Matthews held Tevin in her arms, Morton repeatedly stabbed Rampage causing the animal temporarily to release Tevin. Rampage continued to bite Tevin, however, until Morton finally was able to put the dog out of the apartment through the back door. By this time the ambulance had arrived, and Morton took Tevin from Matthews and ran with him to the ambulance.

Matthews then tried to exit the house through the front door, but Rampage had run to the front door of the apartment. According to Matthews, "I had to hold the door tight so he wouldn't get in and get me or ... Darnell." Morton then returned to the apartment, and Matthews was able to leave the apartment and join Tevin in the ambulance. Approximately one hour after arriving at the hospital, Tevin died from his injuries.

In September 1994, the present action was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against Amberwood and Monocle. Count I of the complaint was a wrongful death action pursuant to Maryland Code (1974, 1995 Repl. Vol., 1997 Supp.), ? 3-904(a) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, on behalf of Matthews and Andre T. Williams, Tevin's father. Count II was a survival action, pursuant to Code (1974, 1991 Repl.Vol., 1997 Supp.), ? 7-401(x) of the Estates and Trusts Article, by Matthews as personal representative of Tevin's estate. Count III was brought by Matthews, individually, and alleged that she suffered shock, fright, alarm, anxiety, emotional distress, and physical and psychological pain and suffering as a result of Amberwood's and Monocle's negligence. The final count requested relief for the defendants' "reckless infliction of emotional distress" upon Matthews.

The defendants' answer, filed in October 1994, generally denied all of the plaintiffs' allegations and asserted that Matthews failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. In late October 1995, three days prior to the scheduled trial date, the defendants filed an amended answer that, inter alia, added the affirmative defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of risk. Prior to the commencement of the evidentiary portion of the trial, the circuit court, on a motion by Matthews, struck the portions of the amended answer alleging contributory negligence and assumption of risk. The court also granted the defendants' motion to bifurcate the liability and damages portions of the trial.

The liability phase of the trial began in early November 1995, and spanned three days of testimony. At the close of all testimony the defendants moved for judgment on all counts. The court denied the motion as to counts I and II. The court granted the motion as to count III, stating that "no physical injuries ... occurred in this case to" Matthews and that, under a negligence count, Matthews could not recover for emotional distress. The court permitted count IV to go to the jury as a count asserting an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, based upon the emotional distress suffered by Matthews prior to Tevin's death.

The jury found Amberwood and Monocle liable on all counts submitted to the jury. Following the damages phase of the trial, the jury awarded damages as follows: $5,018,750 to Matthews and $562,100 to Williams for the wrongful death of Tevin; $600,000 non-economic damages and $4,147.52 compensatory damages to Tevin's estate under the survival action; and $1,110,000 to Matthews as damages for "intentional infliction of emotional distress prior to the death of Tevin Williams." Several motions were filed subsequent to the jury's verdict. The court granted the defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the intentional infliction of emotional distress count, reduced the noneconomic damages award in the survival action to $350,000, and denied all other motions.

Both sides appealed, and the Court of Special Appeals reversed the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that, under the circumstances, the defendants owed no duty to the social invitees of a tenant. Amberwood v. Matthews, 115 Md.App. 510, 513, 694 A.2d 131, 133 (1997).

The plaintiffs filed in this Court a petition for a writ of certiorari, and the defendants filed a cross-petition for a writ of certiorari. We granted the plaintiffs' petition and...

To continue reading

Request your trial
59 cases
  • Ford v. Edmondson Vill. Shopping Ctr. Holdings, LLC
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • July 2, 2021
    ......., "Master Plan," "in response to, including but not limited to, years of complaints surrounding the general decay and ... existence after the tenant has taken possession." Matthews v. Amberwood Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, Inc. , 351 Md. 544, 555, ......
  • Wankel v. A & B CONTRACTORS
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • July 1, 1999 emphasizing foreseeability as a crucial aspect of a superseding cause analysis. Recently, in Matthews v. Amberwood Assoc. Ltd. Partnership, Inc., 351 Md. 544, 578, 719 A.2d 119 (1998), the Court of Appeals reiterated what had been made clear in Lane: namely, that "`[e]ssentially, the int......
  • Chevy Chase Land Co. v. US, Misc. No. 24
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • July 29, 1999
    ...... their contention that the scope of the easement is limited to railroad purposes, our holding in Part III also disposes ... real property principles, the majority in Matthews v. Amberwood Associates Ltd. Partnership, 351 Md. 544, 719 ......
  • Hemmings v. Pelham Wood, 56
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • June 16, 2003
    ......522 Suzette HEMMINGS . v. . PELHAM WOOD LIMITED LIABILITY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, et al. . No. 56, Sept. ... recently for the majority of the Court in Matthews v. Amberwood Assoc., 351 Md. 544, 557, 719 A.2d 119, 125 ...Amberwood Associates Limited Partnership, Inc., 351 Md. 544, 719 A.2d 119 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT