Dog Bite Could Cost Pet Owner $28,000

May 17, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

Garfield Pulley's dog took a $28,000 chunk out of Tracy Ann Watts'leg.

So said a county Circuit Court jury, ruling Pulley was liable for damages incurred and pain suffered by Watts after the May 22, 1988, dog bite outside Pulley's Arnold home.

The jury also awarded $2,000 to Watts' husband, David, who was bitten on the thumb when he pulled his wife away from the German shepherd. The jury announced its verdict after deliberating for an hour Wednesday, ending a two-day civil trial.

According to a written statement by Tracy Watts, contained in a court file, the woman left her home in the 1300 block of Shirleyville Road to return some money to oneof the Pulley brothers, Garfield and Rudolph.

One of the men had given Watts a $20 bill to take to church for an offering and had asked her to return $10 change.

When Watts approached the Pulley property, also in the 1300 block of Shirleyville Road, a "medium-sized dog" attacked her, biting her in the right knee and the left leg, according to the statement. While Tracy Watts tried to fend off the dog -- and keep it away from her daughters, ages 5 and 2 -- David Watts arrived to pull the dog away.

In her statement, Watts says Rudolph Pulley came outside and said, "What are you doing around here? You know there's dogs around here." She says she was "amazed" at his hostilityand lack of concern for her wounds. She said she gave him the $10, and he thanked her as if nothing unusual had happened.

In April 1990, the couple filed a $3 million suit against the Pulleys, charging them with negligence and holding them liable for "severe, painful, permanent" injuries.

The jury found Garfield Pulley -- but not his brother Rudolph -- liable for about $3,500 in medical bills and about $3,000 in lost wages for the couple, said Robert W. Thompson, attorneyfor the Pulleys. The rest of the award was for pain and suffering.

Thompson said prior dog-bite cases in which he'd been involved had been settled for $5,000 to $10,000. He attributed the higher award inthe Watts case to the nasty scars left on the woman's legs.

The woman initially sought treatment at Anne Arundel Medical Center, but her wounds became infected and had to be treated again at Walter Reed Hospital, Thompson said.

Attempts to reach Pulley and the Wattses yesterday were unsuccessful.

Thompson said he would file a motion asking Circuit Judge Bruce C. Williams, who heard the case, to throw out the jury's verdict. If that move fails, he will likely appeal, hesaid.

The lawyer said Pulley has no insurance to cover the five-figure judgment. Thompson added, "If I can't get it knocked off later,he may have to sell some land."

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