Carla Cornelio, 21, and her mother, Alba Cornelio, 41, were found guilty on two counts each of owning a vicious animal that caused the death of their 75-year-old neighbor, Emako Mendoza, on June 18, 2011. According to a news report in U-T San Diego, the fatal dog attack occurred when Mendoza was mauled in the backyard of her own home in San Diego. The pit bulls had entered her yard through a gap in the fence.
After the mauling, Mendoza had her left arm and leg amputated. Doctors could not save her right leg and arm after they became severely infected. Mendoza died Christmas Eve 2011 of complications from her injuries at age 76. Carla and Alba Cornelio face up to four years in prison for the felony convictions.
Prosecutor Alleged Negligence
During the trial, prosecutors argued that the Cornelios knew about the hole in the wooden fence that separated the neighbors’ yards, but did not make an adequate effort to repair the fence. The sticks and boards they placed to cover up the hole in the fence was not enough. The prosecutor also argued that the Cornelios did not do anything to help the victim after she was injured. In addition, when police contacted them, Carla Cornelio lied and told them that her mother was not home, prosecutors said. Defense lawyers argued that the Cornelios could have foreseen what happened to Mendoza and that they had made a substantial effort to cover the fence.
Being a Responsible Dog Owner
There is no question that dog owners have a responsibility to restrain and confine their pets so they do not pose a danger to neighbors and members of the public. Under California law, dog owners can be held liable for any injuries or damages caused by their pets, whether or not they were deemed vicious in the past and regardless of prior incidents. There are several steps dog owners can take to ensure they are being responsible with their pets:
• Train and socialize your dog and protect people from being injured by your dog.
• If your dog is particularly aggressive toward people or other dogs, seek the help of an experienced, professional dog trainer who can help change your dog’s behavior.
• Never let your dog run loose. Obey your city’s leash laws.
• Keep your dog’s vaccinations current.
• Keep your dog out of the paths of strangers such as mail carriers, salespeople and walkers or joggers.
• Put up warning signs if you have reason to believe that your dog may injure someone.
• Make sure you have liability insurance. Homeowners’ insurance also covers most dog bite injuries.
If you have been injured in a dog attack, please remember that you have rights. Injured dog attack victims can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, cosmetic surgery, pain and suffering, psychological counseling and emotional distress. An experienced San Diego dog bite attorney can better advise injured victims and their families regarding their legal rights and options.