Category Archives: Luiz Simmons

Simmons Ethics Complaint Documents

Gaithersburg Activist and 2010 State Legislative Candidate Dan Campos forwarded me these documents from the the ethics complaint filed against Lou Simmons (D-17, Rockville and Gaithersburg). While the Ethics Committee has decided not to pursue the matter further, it also said that his actions are “contrary” to previous opinions issued by the Committee.

It does certainly seem a tad sleazy. Simmons requested twenty cases (6000) of free Maryland maps. He sent many maps out in large mailings to his constituents. In contrast, Sen. Ben Cardin, who represents the whole state, requested one case (300).

Below is the letter to Dan Campos from the Ethics Committee, a spreadsheet of map requests to the State (only up to 2010), and copies of the letters from Simmons that came with the maps. Both were sent out on official House of Delegates stationary.

Simmons Ethics Letter

Excel Spreadsheet of Map Requests up to 2010
Simmons Large Map Mailing Letter from October 2013
Simmons Large Map Mailing Letter from July 2012

Simmons and Frosh Makeup and Let the Dogs Out

dogbite voteVote on “Dog Bite” bill–Yea is the Responsibility Vote

Not all political feuds last forever. In a previous post, I mentioned how Del. Lou Simmons (D 17) had stated in the media that Sen. Brian Frosh had “reneged” on a deal and was “incompetent.” Frosh was also apparently feckless and disappointing.

Such a louse. But apparently, all is forgiven. In a recent Gazette article, Simmons now called Frosh “the indispensable man.” You can feel the kvelling all the way from Annapolis to Montgomery County.

No mystery why this happened. Frosh played a leading role in amending the Senate dog bite bill much closer to the much weaker version backed by Simmons. In his comments, Simmons went out of his way to say that the Senate did not cave to the House but he “doth protest too much, methinks.”

Because that’s what happened. Otherwise, why would Simmons have his Damascene conversion on Frosh? The version adopted by the Senate will enshrine the one-bite rule into law. This rule means that if a dog has not bitten before that the owner gets a pass on liability no matter the damage even if unprovoked.

I look forward to the State creating a dog bite database.

Kudos to Sen. Bobby Zirkin for fighting the good fight for a stricter interpretation that makes sense. At least his efforts now mean that owners with unleashed dogs that bite will now be held responsible. Above is the vote on the original Zirkin amendment to keep the stricter and more sensible interpretation.

Kudos also to Zirkin for at least making it so that unleashed dogs will be held responsible even without the first bite.

For the record, I don’t think dog owners who are walking a leashed dog should be held responsible if someone pets them without permission. But I don’t see why Simmons wants to allow one who lunges and maims someone to get a pass just because there is no evidence of a previous bite, whether or not one occurred.

 

Simmons Backs the Wrong Dog

bewareofdog

In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that pit bulls are an inherently dangerous breed. In order to avoid massive emails on this topic, I will not wade into that question. (Write Judge Judy instead; she thinks they’re dangerous.)

The Court’s decision made it so that it is not necessary to show negligence by a pit bull’s owner in order to collect damages for a pit bull dog bite. Pit bull owners worry that the Court’s decision will lead landlords to bar pit bulls and that animal shelters will euthanize them —both of which are possible. In short, they demand an end to pit bull discrimination.

The issue has become a serious problem. The General Assembly wants to eliminate the single breed focus but still protect the public from dog bites. However, it has been unable to resolve this problem due to Del. Luiz Simmons’ recalcitrance.

Simmons wants a one bite rule. Essentially, unless an owner had knowledge that a dog bit people through previous experience, the owner could not be held liable for a dog’s first bite. The one bite rule would even protect owners who negligently fail to obey leash laws.

As a result of Simmons’ demands, the bill died in the last session of the General Assembly, as reported by the Baltimore Sun:

At issue is an amendment adopted by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which [Sen. Brian] Frosh chairs, on Thursday night. Simmons said the amendment “killed” the bill. Frosh said Simmons is overreacting.

“He told me he’s going to kill the Senate bill as a result,” Frosh said. “I think he’s making a mistake. I think we’re very close to passing a good piece of legislation.” . . .

Simmons charged Friday that an amendment added to the bill . . .  — proposed by Sen. Robert A. Zirkin and adopted 7-4 — would expose hundreds of thousands of owners of other breeds of dog to substantially the same strict liability standard as the court applied to pit bulls. . . .

Frosh said he fought hard to defeat the amendment — an account confirmed by several members. While Frosh said he doesn’t like the amendment, which requires the owner to provide “clear and convincing” proof there was no reason to suspect a dog would bite, he said it’s a long way from strict liability — an almost automatic legal presumption that the owner is responsible.

Simmons preferred to kill the bill rather than let it go to a conference committee to work out the differences, stating that Sen. Brian Frosh “reneged” and is “incompetent” if he couldn’t defeat the amendment.

Frosh, now a candidate for Maryland Attorney General, and Simmons have reconciled and the bill has been reintroduced this year without the amendment that Simmons intensely dislikes. However, Sen. Zirkin has introduced a bill with the stricter language. Zirkin feels strongly but on the other side.

Zirkin’s explained his views in the Washington Post:

Zirkin told his colleagues that everyone agrees the law shouldn’t discriminate against pit bulls. He said the only remaining question is whether owners should be held liable when their dogs have no prior history of violence. And Zirkin considers it unjust to make a victim pay for medical bills if that person didn’t provoke the attack.

Tony Solesky, the father of the boy who was mauled, and their attorney, Kevin Dunne, also spoke against Frosh’s bill.

“It’s not a compromise — it is a surrender,” Dunne said. “The victims will lose.”

In other states with “strict liability” laws, insurance companies often cover the dog owners’ expenses.

Zirkin is right. Owners should be held responsible for the actions of their dog unless they can prove convincingly that the dog was provoked. The effect of an injury is the same whether it’s the first or second bite. Either way, medical bills should absolutely be covered. The number of previous bites seem more relevant to the question of punitive damages.

As the Gazette has reported, Del. Simmons’ thinks that demands for stricter liability are rooted in “histrionics:”

In its November report, titled “Dog Bites in Maryland and Other States: Data, Insurance Coverage and Liability,” the Department of Legislative Services found that since 2005, only one death in Maryland was attributed to a dog bite.

Compared to other states, Maryland has an average number of dog bite injuries, the report said, noting that very few states had data available.

Among injuries from external causes — such as from motor vehicle accidents, firearms, water, fire, machinery, falls, medications and more — dogs bites accounted for about 1 percent. Maryland logged about 465,000 externally caused injuries in 2010, of which about 4,800 were dog bites.

“The facts are an antidote to the epidemic of disinformation and factoids about dog bites and the histrionics that have accompanied it,” Simmons said in a statement provided to The Gazette.

My guess is that means around 4,800 more people per year who disagree strongly with Del. Simmons. While I imagine most injuries are relatively mild, some aren’t. The anecdotal cases derided by Simmons include some very serious ones.

Supporters of a loose standard claim that this is a boondoggle for trial lawyers. But the tighter standard provides a much stronger incentive for owners to take responsibility for their dogs. And responsibility is the key word here. Should the responsibility rest with the dog owner or the injured person?

Seems obvious to me.