Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

Richard H. Polsky, PhD, CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

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Jury verdict of $2.2 million to pit bull attack victim in Washington

Pit bull dog attack victim, Sue Gorman, was awarded $2.2 million in an August 2011 jury verdict in Pierce County, Washington. The incident in question happened  four years earlier in  August, 2007 in Gig Harbor, Washington.

The circumstances  surrounding this attack were rather unusual. Two pit bulls, a male and a female,  had escaped from the home of a neighbor earlier that day,  and entered Gorman’s bedroom through an open sliding glass door. Upon do so, they started to attack Gorman’s two dogs. Gorman had kept the sliding glass door open in her bedroom in order to allow her dogs access to the backyard. Gorman, a disabled person, was sleeping when the pit bulls entered her bedroom, and she attempted to shoot the dogs to stop the attack on her dogs. Gorman eventually escaped and called 911 but before doing so the pit bulls severely attacked both her and her two dogs. One of her dogs, a Jack Russell terrier, was killed, and the other survived. Gorman also survived the attack but was hospitalized with bites to her arms, face, neck, chest and nose .

Several defendants were named in this action: Pierce County animal control,the owners of the female pit bull, and the owner of the male pit bull who had left this dog with the owners of the female pitbull because was out of town.

Evidence entered at trial indicated that animal control had received numerous warnings about the two pit bull dogs running loose in the neighborhood and terrorizing people. Gorman herself  had filed a complaint to animal control two months prior to the incident.  The main defense argument at trial was that the owner/keepers of the dogs were negligent in not keeping these dogs confined.

The jury apportioned fault as follows: 52% to the defendant keeper/owner, 42% to Pierce County, 5% to the owner of the male pitbull who had left the dog with the defendant keeper because she had gone out of town, and 1% to the victim. After the trial concluded, the jury expressed concern that animal control did not act more constructively in protecting public safety after receiving complaints about the dogs.

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