Greg Kafoury and attorney Craig Hopkins, with legal assistant David Hess, won a case against Jane and Doug Davis, the owners of a farm in Yamhill County, on behalf of a woman who was bitten in the face by the couple’s dog.
Christine Shertzer, 43, incurred $16,000 in medical expenses, including plastic surgery, and will in the future need scar revision and management costing $3,700, and injections costing some $46,000 over the rest of her life in order to fill the lower lip where a chunk was lost from the bite.
Plaintiff verdicts of any size are rare in Yamhill County, which only has two civil jury trials a year. The jury in this case awarded $155,000 in noneconomic damages, and $40,000 in economic damages, but reduced the overall award by 48 percent because of what they found to be comparative fault on the part of the plaintiff.
It was an ugly case, in which Ms. Shertzer, a manager of a local winery, was invited to an event at the farm where a group of prominent local businesspeople had gathered. The dog, Hank, had a history of biting workmen who had remodeled the Davis’s home. Doug Davis had witnessed two of the prior biting incidents. Jane Davis had also reported to the veterinarian previously that Hank was, “having aggressive episodes at home with owner and other dogs, unpredictable behavior.” The veterinarian recommended, “behavioral training ASAP, early neuter and strict immediate and consistent correction with aggression episodes.”
The Davises did not follow the advice. Doug Davis testified he provided minimal training for the dog to “sit and shake hands, lie down.” The dog approached Ms. Shertzer during the party and sat in front of her. When Ms. Shertzer began petting the dog on the head, without warning it leapt forward and tore off part of her lip.
After Ms. Shertzer was badly hurt, friends of the Davis family circled the wagons around the defendants, several of whom provided testimony that was greatly discredited during cross examination. An interview with several jurors indicated the jury did not believe the defense witnesses.