Articles Posted in Dog Bites

A San Diego dog bite injury turned deadly this week for 59-year-old Diane Jansen, a postal worker from Sun City. Jansen was out on her route, delivering mail in a residential neighborhood, when a pit bull came running out of the garage of one of the homes in the area. The dog had been in the garage with several children, and he was not wearing a leash. When he spotted Jansen, the dog ran straight at her and bit her multiple times on her legs. When medical staff arrived on the scene to treat her injuries, Jansen began to have trouble speaking, and eventually became unresponsive. She was rushed to the hospital, where doctors quickly determined that she was suffering from a brain hemorrhage. She passed away Sunday evening. After conducting an autopsy, the medical examiner determined the cause of death to be a hemorrhagic stroke but that pre-existing cardiovascular disease and the dog bites to her legs were a contributing factor. After the attack, the authorities came to the house and removed and later euthanized the animal.

Experience has taught our San Diego dog bite lawyer that situations like this one can make for particularly difficult wrongful death cases because there were multiple factors that contributed to the victim’s death. If the victim filed a lawsuit against the owners of the dog, they would likely try to defend against the claim by suggesting that the harm caused by the dog was relatively minor and did not actually cause Jansen’s death. They would argue that the real cause of death was Jansen’s pre-existing cardiovascular disease, which led to the hemorrhage that caused the stroke. Thus, the defendants in such a case would likely claim that they could not be held legally responsible in a San Diego wrongful death lawsuit.

pit%20bull.jpgHowever, our San Diego wrongful death attorney knows that, like most things in the law, it would not be that simple. A well-known principle in the area of personal injury and tort law is the “eggshell skull” doctrine. The rule posits that someone who commits a negligent act that causes harm to another person must take the victim as he or she finds the victim. This means that even if the victim is particularly susceptible to injury due to some pre-existing condition, the person who commits the negligent act that leads to injury is still responsible for all of the injuries arising out of that act. For example, if a driver backs into a person with very brittle bones, the driver is responsible for any injuries the victim sustains, even if a person without the brittle bones would not have been injured as badly or at all. Therefore, even though Jansen had a pre-existing condition, her family may still be able to recover in a wrongful death suit against the owners of the dog.

If you live in our area or surrounding communities, this case illustrates how vital it is to have a San Diego County personal injury lawyer on your side when dealing with legal matters. The law can be extremely complicated, and it is always best to have an advocate who knows the law and can help you to make the most of the rights that are available to you.

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Today there is yet another story of a pit bull attacking a person, this time an Escondido postal carrier. According to the North County Times the female mail carrier was delivering the mail when the dog escaped through a partially opened garage door and attacked, biting her legs several times. As of this writing, she is still hospitalized. The dog was put down.

Just last week Walton Law Firm was hired by another dog bite victim, also involving a pit bull, and also causing serious injuries. In this case, two pit bulls were playing in a park, off leash, when they attacked another dog. When the owner of the innocent dog tried to intervene, she was bitten badly.

Pit bulls have been the subject of considerable scrutiny in recent years because of so many high profile attacks, including a fatal attack in San Diego just last year. Pit Bull defenders are always quick to accuse individual owners for the conduct of the dangerous dogs, and argue that pit bulls can be friendly, social family pets if they are raised right.

Each year, San Diego County Animal Services investigates approximately 6,000 California dog bites are reported each year by local residents and visitors. These incidents can be costly—physically and financially. The average cost of a dog bite injury treated in a hospital emergency room is $274. Severe injuries can result in thousands of dollars in treatment and surgery costs, not to mention pain and suffering for victims.

This is a reality some San Diego dog bite victims know all too well. For example, a forty-year old man from Mountain View suffered severe injuries after a neighbor’s pit bull attacked him, biting him on the arm, side, and back. The attack on Paul “Mario” Todd, Jr., was the fourth dog attack in a recent spate of incidents in San Diego this summer. The victims also included a one-year-old in Chula Vista and a woman walking her dog in Grant Hill. Another victim, an elderly woman who was attacked by two pit bulls while collecting her morning newspaper, lost her leg and was also in danger of losing her arm.


In the U.S., approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year and 800,000 of those bitten require medical treatment. In some states, the “one bite” or the “first bite free” rule prevails, meaning that a dog owner will not necessarily be civilly liable to the victim. Under the “first bite free” rule, a dog bite victim may have to prove that a dog is dangerous or vicious and that its owner kept the animal after knowing of the dog’s dangerousness or vicious nature before being able to recover for injuries.

In other words, states that follow the “one bite free” rule can leave some victims vulnerable. Even unprovoked attacks can leave dog bite victims without compensation for their personal injuries. It is often difficult, though not impossible, for victims to prove specific previous misconduct on the part of dog owners. Even if they can show all that is required to recover, it always requires more time and expense on the part of the victim before receiving compensation for their injuries.

Fortunately, under California’s strict liability dog bite statute there are no “free” bites. Our California personal injury lawyers know that the law protects dog bite victims by permitting them to recover for their injuries, regardless of a dog’s past bite history or viciousness. That means dog owners may have to pay for injuries their pets cause to others.

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Many local residents have added a pet to their homes, with dogs increasing in popularity
across our area. Most families ensure that their animals do not pose risks to others and takes steps to prevent dog bites. However, even with precautions, San Diego dog bites continue to strike with surprisingly frequency. When that happens it is vital that the victims be compensated for the losses they suffer as a result of the accident.

In California, as in many other states, dog owners are strictly liable for the actions of their animals. This is true even if the animal had no previous history of bites and regardless of whether the owner was aware that the dog posed a bite risk. Strict liability is a legal principle that applies in injury cases like this and affects the requirements that must be met for a victim to recover for their losses following an injury.

In a regular “negligence” case a plaintiff must show that another person owed them a duty, and that they duty was breached causing injury. In those cases, therefore, a plaintiff must specifically show that the other person acted in an unreasonable way. Strict liability cases are a bit different. In these cases the plaintiff generally does not have to specifically show that the other person acted unreasonably. In these cases, the other party is required as a matter of law to pay for the losses caused by the conduct whether reasonably tried to prevent the bite or not. Therefore, because California dog bite lawsuits are considered strict liability cases, the individual who is bitten can almost always recover damages for the losses they suffer. By providing for this form of remedy for dog bite victims, the state has logically decided that paying for a dog bite is a responsibility of a dog owner, no matter what the circumstances.

The risk of dog bites continues to affect many local decisions in our area. For example, the Imperial Beach Patch reported late last month on disagreement about a proposed leash-free dog beach. Some opposed to the proposal told stories about encounters with dangerous dogs on the beach leading to broken bones, bruises, and bites—often caused by irresponsible dog owners. Opponents to the proposal explained that the San Diego County Department of Animal Services reports that about 2,700 San Diego dog bites strike each year. They argue that unleashing animals on a popular beach area would create too much risk.

However, others argue that the owners of the thousands of licensed dogs and their animals in the area need a place to interact without the need to be on a leash. The dog beach proponents suggest that the animals are rarely aggressive when at a dog beach playing with one another. They believe that a trial period should at least be allowed so that the feasibility of the beach option can be evaluated.

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The owners of the two pit bulls who attacked and maimed 75-year-old Emako Mendoza have been arrested. The San Diego County Department of Animal Services have arrested the Alba and Carla Cornelio in connection with the attack, but it’s not clear what crimes they will be charged with. The two women were booked into Las Colinas Detention Center. Bail was set at $900,000 for the daughter, Carla Cornelio, and according to news accounts, the mother, Alba, was “not eligible for bail.” The authorities clearly view these crimes as serious with such a high bail. Probably because the two dogs that attacked Ms. Mendoza were responsible for another attack on a person last Christmas.

Jail%20001l.jpgThis was without a doubt one of the most egregious dog attacks in San Diego history. Ms. Mendoza suffered near-fatal bites, and treatment for her injuries had included the amputation of her leg. Though the attack was two weeks ago, she remains in critical condition at Scripps Mercy Hospital.

The dogs that attacked Ms. Mendoza have both been euthanized, but that is of little solace to Ms. Mendoza’s husband, who has stated that he intends to bring a civil action against the dog’s owners. “I hope these people have plenty of money because I am going to sue them for plenty,” he said. But the reality is these folks probably don’t have the money or the insurance to adequately cover the damages suffered by this family.

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Here’s another terrible story involving a pit bull attack. A morning trip to the driveway of her Paradise Hills, San Diego home turned into a true horror story for 75-year-old Emako Mendoza who, while out picking up the daily newspaper, was attacked by two pit bull dogs. The bites she received in the attack were so severe that her left leg was amputated below the knee, and still remains at risk of losing her other leg and an arm.


“She’s in a terrible amount of pain. She’s so fragile to begin with. She just can’t handle this pain,” her husband of 53 years told the San Diego Union Tribune.

The dogs came from the yard of her neighbor, Alba Cornelio, who apparently escaped through a hole in the neighboring fence. Cornelio was some kind of pit bull breeder who, after this attack, had a litter of pit bull puppies confiscated. The two dogs involved in the attack were properly euthanized, and Cornelio is no doubt telling authorities that the dogs never showed any sign of aggressive behavior before the attack. It fair to say that in nearly every case of a dog bite handled by Walton Law Firm, the owner of the attacking dog claims the attack was totally out of character.

News accounts state that no complaints against the dogs were on file, but the investigation continues.

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dog_mailman.jpgIf you ever wondered how many dogs attacked postal workers in major American cities this was your lucky week. The U.S. Postal Service released statistics this week that highlight the U.S. cities that are the most dangerous to letter carriers. Letter carriers in Houston had the most to fear. Last year 62 letter carriers were attack by dogs in Houston, but San Diego wasn’t far behind. Tied for second with Columbus, Ohio, San Diego mail carriers were attacked a total of 45 times by dogs. Overall, though, letter carriers got off easy compared to the 4.7 million Americans who suffer dog bites each year, mostly children.

The one dog attack case that got the most attention last year involved U.S. Postal worker Hao Yun “Eddie” Lin, who was attacked by a lunging Rottweiler in Oceanside. While jumping out of the way, Lin fell to the ground, striking his head on the curb. He died a few days later.

The Postal Service reports that injuries caused by dog bites / attacks cost it nearly $1.2 million last year, which doesn’t include the pain and suffering and workers compensation expenses.

Susan Johnson, an Postal Service safety manager, to the San Diego Union Tribune that local mail carriers run into a lot of unrestricted dogs and lax owners. All letter carriers carry pepper spray, and keep track of dogs who express aggressive behaviors. Overall, almost 5,700 postal workers were attacked by dogs in 2010.

Click here to read the U.S. Postal Service press release.

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Two pit bull terriers were confiscated and quarantined on Tuesday after they attacked and severly bit and elderly woman while walking in the Menifee neighborhood where she lives. Witnesses say Lona Bishop, 86, was attacked early Tuesday morning on Buckwheat Road in the southern part of Menifee.

Witnesses say that Bishop was badly hurt, and had large bites on her wrist and upper arm. A relative of the victim told the North County Times that the victim was taken to Loma Linda Medical Center where she will require surgery.

A postal worker died last week after suffering blunt head trauma while on his postal route in Oceanside. According to reports, Hao Yun “Eddie” Lin of Poway was walking his route at the 500 block of Stanley Street when he encountered a large dog, possibly a Rottweiler. While it’s unclear what exactly happened next, it appears that in his effort to avoid the dog, Mr. Lin fell and struck his head, causing the fatal head injury. Sadly, Mr. Lin leaves behind three young children, including a 4-month-old daughter.

Both the Oceanside Police and the San Diego Humane Society are still trying to figure out exactly what happened. Lin’s wife told the North County Times that she was frustrated with the pace of the investigation, and wants answers. She said that she is aware that the dog jumped on her husband and that the dog attacked another letter carrier years earlier. It is reported that the dog was euthanized at the owner’s request.

As to legal liability, assuming the dog caused the death, the owner of the dog will be held strictly liable to the family under California’s dog bite statute. Under the law, there are very few defenses. If a dog causes injury – even if the dog is being playful – the owner will be held liable. A dog bite is not required for liability purposes.

RIVERSIDE – This appears to be a story about an careless mother visiting the apartment of an unfit dog owner, resulting in a horrific attack on a six-month-old child According to reports, Point Loma resident Carrie McKinney left her baby in a carrier on the floor in her friend’s apartment, then left the toddler alone with a pit bull and pit bull mix dog. When the two adults heard screaming, then came into the room of the toddler and found the dogs attacking the boy. Sadly, it appears that the dogs, which were apparently biting at the child’s diaper, bit off one or both of his testicles.

According to Willa Bagwell of Animal Friends of the Valleys, an organization that provides animal control for the Murrietta area, both dogs were involved in the attack. According to Bagwell, this is the first time in over 20 years that she has seen such a serious dog bite injury on a small child. She was stunned that such a small child would be left with such large dogs, which were estimated to be 70 and 60 pounds respectively.

The owner of the dogs signed a release to allow animal control to euthanize the animals, which was apparently done yesterday.

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