Parents get $202,400 in dog attack

4-year-old Carroll County boy was severely injured in 2001 by day care provider's pet

Baltimore & Region

December 28, 2005|By JOSH MITCHELL | JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTER

A jury has awarded $202,400 to the parents of a Carroll County boy who was attacked and severely injured by his day care provider's dog.

Benjamin Caples was 4 years old when he was watching television in the Hampstead home of Catherine and Lawrence M. Serfas in March 2001, according to a lawsuit filed by Jeffrey and Kelly Caples. The boy playfully growled at the Serfases' golden retriever-basset hound mix, named Clifford. The dog suddenly clamped its teeth on the boy's head and swung it back and forth repeatedly, said the Capleses' attorney, Howard J. Needle.

Catherine Serfas, who had been making lunches in the kitchen, freed the boy's head from the dog's mouth, Needle said.

Benjamin was taken to Carroll County General Hospital and received 200 stitches in his scalp, face and right ear, which was almost severed, the lawsuit alleges. A 5-inch scar runs through the boy's scalp, Needle said.

The Capleses asked for $1 million in damages and $50,000 in medical expenses.

In a verdict handed down Friday, the Circuit Court jury found that the Serfases were negligent in having the dog in their home while children were there.

"The regulations say she has to be within sight or sound of the children, and she was within neither," Needle said of Catherine Serfas. He said that the Serfases are "very lovely people" who made a "very big mistake."

Lawrence Serfas called the attack a "terribly unfortunate accident."

"We feel our heartfelt sympathy for the Caples and their son Benjamin," said Serfas, 48. "We do not believe there was negligence involved, and that's why we went to court."

Serfas contends that the dog was never out of his wife's sight the morning of the attack.

The Serfases remained the day care provider for Benjamin and his older brother for three years after the attack, Lawrence Serfas said.

He and his wife had adopted the dog from the Humane Society in Carroll County three months before the incident. At the Serfases' request, the Humane Society picked up the dog the day of the attack, Serfas said, and it was euthanized.

josh.mitchell @baltsun.com

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