A jury in Texas awarded $695,000 in damages against a couple whose dog bit a neighbor. The verdict followed a four day trial and half a day of deliberations.
The jury award in Parker County, Texas included $125,000 in punitive damages. The punitive award was made after a finding that the dog was either vicious or dangerous. It also included the finding that the dog’s owners should have known that the dog was vicious or dangerous. The jury’s verdict was reported by Texas Lawyer magazine.
There was evidence during the trial that another neighbor felt that she had to take a handgun to her mailbox when getting mail in order to protect herself from the dog.
The defendant dog owners testified that the dog was friendly and they did not know that it had escaped from the yard previously. They also claimed they were out of town when the dog bit the plaintiff woman. They testified their teenage daughter accidentally left the gate open.
A neighbor contradicted the defendants’ testimony telling the jury that the dog had escaped on a regular basis and could escape if the gate was open or closed.
As reported by the legal publication, Brian Butcher, the lawyer for plaintiff Jennifer Duggin said, she “is somebody who presents well and somebody who I had a lot of sympathy for.” Butcher says that is why he decided to represent Duggin.
“The jury heard evidence that the dog had bitten people on numerous prior occasions and was trained to attack by its owner, Tim Turner,” Butcher, said in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Texas Lawyer magazine reported that Duggin testified that she had suffered vascular damage, and the pain and suffering was persisting. The scar on her leg was in the shape of a dog’s mouth.
The lawyer for the defendant couple declined comment.
Parker County has a population of approximately 117,000 and the county seat is Weatherford. The county is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Metroplex area.
The case was tried in the 415th district court, Judge Graham Quisenberry presiding.
A ruling is expected later this month. The plaintiff is expected to recover against the defendants’ homeowner’s insurance policy.