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LA Animal Shelter Volunteer Receives $6.8M in Dog Attack Case

Dog attack

A Los Angeles jury this month awarded $6.8 million to 36-year-old Kelly Kaneko, an animal shelter volunteer whose arm was nearly ripped off in a brutal dog attack.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, jurors found the city liable for gross negligence. Kaneko still suffers from nerve and bone damage in her right arm, where the dog latched on to her for more than five minutes in October 2019, forcing her to drag herself and the dog around the facility in a desperate attempt to find help.

The Times reports that Kaneko volunteered at a Los Angeles Animal Services facility in Lincoln Heights. She was motivated to get involved after hearing that dogs are often ignored at shelters run by the troubled city agency due to staff shortages. On the day of her attack, Kaneko was asked to move a 100-pound German shepherd mix from a kennel to another part of the facility where a prospective adopting family was to meet him.

Lack of Staff and Negligence

While the shelter let Kaneko know that the dog was “grumpy,” there was no other formal warning about the dog’s history of aggression, according to the Times article. It added that Kaneko was not informed that the dog had bitten its previous owner and that he was surrendered back to the city facility. The previous owner had also reportedly told the shelter that the dog seemed aggressive and was a threat.

The Animal Services department should have put a yellow mark on the dog’s record to note that it was aggressive, a former director testified during the trial. Kaneko was not a trained volunteer and was alone when she returned the dog to its kennel as directed. The dog latched onto her arm once she removed the leash and refused to let her go. She could not break free of the dog’s jaws tightly gripped around her arm.

Permanent Injuries: Scarring and Disfigurement

After several minutes, Kaneko dragged herself and the dog to the shelter’s main facility. One employee was wearing earplugs at the shelter’s recommendation because previous employees had complained of losing their hearing. Kaneko had to drag herself and the dog to the front of the facility a few more feet, where the employee eventually saw Kaneko and came to her aid.

Kaneko was transported to the hospital, where she underwent multiple surgeries and skin grafts and spent 40 days in the intensive care unit. Her hand was saved but severely damaged, her attorney said. They described her hand as discolored and said it gets less blood and has a “faint pulse.” Even though doctors did fantastic work to save her arm, Kaneko “has not been made whole” because she has been scarred for life and permanently injured.

The LA Times has reported worsening conditions in city animal shelters, including a lack of staff and poor care for dogs and small animals, and the Times reported that because of limited volunteers, dogs are caged for more extended periods, which stresses them out.

Justice for Dog Attack Victims

We are relieved that justice has been served in this case for the victim and hope that the decision will result in better staffing of these city animal shelters. It is also essential that volunteers at these shelters are protected and safeguards are in place so such horrific animal attacks don’t reoccur. It is a relief that Kaneko did not lose her arm or suffer fatal injuries in this dog attack. However, it is apparent that she has been permanently injured and has likely suffered severe emotional trauma.

It is also critical to remember that dog attacks don’t just result in physical injuries and trauma but can also cause psychological injuries such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whether it is a government entity or an individual dog owner, California’s strict liability statute holds at-fault parties financially responsible for the injuries, damages, and losses caused.

California’s Civil Code Section 3342 states: “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

Dog owners or those caring for an attacking dog can be liable for damages, including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, reconstructive surgery, psychological injuries, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Suppose you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack. In that case, you must contact an experienced Los Angeles dog bite lawyer who can help you secure maximum compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. At Bisnar Chase, our team has handled countless dog attack cases with an outstanding track record.

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California Personal Injury Blog