CHICAGO — A jury has awarded the highest verdict Illinois has yet seen as a result of a dog bite incident.
After a nine-day trial in DuPage County, jurors awarded plaintiff Kristen Hayes a record $940,000 award for injuries she sustained being bitten by a dog on April 23, 1997, at the age of 8. The case had been brought against Carriage Animal Clinic, whose employee had been walking the dog at the time of the bite.
“I wish for my clients it would have been lower, but beyond that I’m pleased, because the last demand was $3 million, and [plaintiff’s attorney Bradley Cosgrove] asked the jury for $4.1 million, so to get under $1 million was a good thing from my viewpoint,” Patricia Argentati, defense attorney with Mulherin, Rehfeldt & Varchetto, told the Cook County Record in a phone interview.
The jury, composed of three men and nine women, deliberated for eight hours before returning their verdict.
“One regret I have is we didn’t get a chance to talk to the jury,” Argentati said. “They were sick of all of us after nine days of trial. … The judge told us he was going to tell them, 'You may talk to the attorneys, you don’t have to.' Man, those people shot out of that courtroom like you wouldn’t believe. And I would have liked to have heard their thoughts on certain things like provocation, that was the main thing.”
The defendants have 30 days to file their appeal if they choose to do so.
“I think the judge did a very good job," Argentati said. "I didn’t like all his rulings, but I think his rulings were fair. … I guess I can’t give a final answer until the 30-day period is up, but I can tell you my recommendation to my clients is not to appeal."
The dog bite occurred after a lhasa apso-breed dog slipped its leash while being walked by an employee of Carriage Animal Clinic. The employee chased the dog for two blocks and asked Hayes, who was on her family's front porch, to help her. Hayes caught up to the dog, and when she reached down for it, was bitten on her thumb.
According to a press release from Hayes’ attorney at Clifford Law Offices, the bite caused “puncture wounds, a laceration, and a crushing nerve injury to the terminal fibers of the sensory branch of the radial nerve of the thumb. An injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb was not recognized by medical providers until 32 months after the bite when a surgeon first appreciated laxity of the metacarpal phalangeal joint.”
During the intervening years between the moment she received the bite and when she ultimately filed the lawsuit, Hayes underwent four surgeries and developed chronic pain syndrome, the release said.