SUCCESS STORY

Dog Bite Dilemma

Claims Alleged: Personal Injury

Injury Alleged: Dog Bite

Amount Claimed: $300,553

The Overview

Smith Freed Eberhard achieved a favorable outcome for its client in a case arising from a dog bite incident.

The Background

Smith Freed Eberhard’s clients – the defendants in this case – were walking their dog (a pit bull-lab mix) near a shopping center. Plaintiffs – a husband and wife – were walking in the oncoming direction. As plaintiffs passed the defendants, the dog jumped up and bit the husband’s thigh leaving puncture marks. The man went to the doctor and received antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and possibly a Band-Aid.

Nearly two years later, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the defendants for $553 dollars in medical expenses and $300,000 in non-economic damages. They also filed a loss of consortium claim for the wife. The defendants then tendered the claims to their homeowners’ insurance policy. The insurance company requested Stephan’s defense in the matter.

The Strategy

First, we decided to settle the claim with the wife to avoid the ORS 20.080 statute at trial. We also tried to settle at mediation or a settlement conference, but that went unanswered. We conducted jury verdict research and told the plaintiffs’ attorney that there is no way they would be awarded more than $10,000. The attorney stated that his clients would not be willing to settle the case below that jury verdict range. A judicial settlement conference was suggested, but the plaintiff refused, pushing the case to go to trial.

The case did go to trial, but there was no judge available. The parties went into a judicial settlement conference. Smith Freed Eberhard offered $10,000, but the plaintiff wanted $20,000 plus other demands such as an apology letter and potentially putting down the dog, or at least enrolling the dog in obedience school. When the defendants rejected that offer, plaintiff stormed out of the conference.

The day before trial, the parties were notified that they would have a judge, but he would have to take a morning break for a couple of hours to attend another meeting. Before the judge’s break, pre-trial motions were argued. There, liability was admitted, but the defense also argued that they should only have to pay the plaintiffs medical expenses of $553. After the judge returned, the parties selected the jury members and began their opening statements, presentation of evidence and closing arguments. The trial lasted only one day and that afternoon the jury members went into deliberation.

The Outcome

After deliberating, the jury awarded plaintiff $1,500 in non-economic damages with no prevailing party fees. This decision left the plaintiff in shock, and Smith Freed Eberhard with very pleased clients.

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