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Iowa appeals court upholds $125,000 judgement against dog owner whose pitbull mauled child’s leg

pit-pull-attackDES MOINES – The Iowa court of appeals ruled this week that a Waterloo pitbull owner was negligent for failing to maintain control of his dog knowing the reputation of pitbulls and knowing the dog had nipped at a young boys’s hands the night before a violent attack that left the child disfigured and with a limp.

In upholding a tort lawsuit brought by the mother of the 11-year-old boy who was attacked in 2009, the court cited Iowa Code section 351.28 (2009), which imposes strict liability to the owner of a dog for damages done by the dog.

“We conclude that under section 351.28 the district court properly assigned one hundred percent of the fault to defendant, who was the owner of the dog,” the court wrote in its opinion.

The trouble began on May 23, 2009, when the boy, Salem, who was then eleven years old, was spending the weekend at Anthony Miller’s home in Waterloo, who owned a pitbull. While Salem was petting the dog that evening, it nipped at his hands. No injury occurred at that time. Salem said in court that when he came downstairs in the morning on May 24, 2009, the dog started barking at him. The dog chased him, he tried to run away but tripped, and the dog bit him on the leg. Salem’s father fought the pitbull off, but Salem required medical treatment for the dog bite. Miller subsequently had the dog put down.

Salem testified he was in the hospital sixteen days. He had five surgeries on his leg, including a skin graft. He still walks with a limp and cannot stand for long periods of time. Salem stated he was unable to participate in sports with his friends.

The appeals court upheld a district court decision finding Miller was one hundred percent at fault. The court determined Miller was negligent in that he failed to maintain control of his dog knowing the reputation of pitbulls and knowing the dog had nipped at Salem’s hands the night before. The court assessed damages of $54,655.04 for past medical expenses; $25,000 for past pain and suffering; $5000 for future pain and suffering; $20,000 for loss of body; and $10,000 for future loss of body. The court awarded Salem’s mother, Teresa Burt, $10,000 for past loss of consortium and $1000 for future loss of consortium. In total, judgment was entered against Miller for $125,655.04, plus interest.

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