Partner Ivan Puchalt and Attorney Jenna Edzant of Greene Broillet & Wheeler have won a $6.8-million jury verdict for a Los Angeles animal shelter volunteer who was violently attacked by an aggressive German Shepherd, suffering severe and permanent injuries. The jury found the City of Los Angeles to be liable for her catastrophic injuries for failing to warn of and document according to the City’s policies the dog’s known aggressive behavior and history of biting people. Our team and our client, Ms. Kelly Kaneko, are hopeful that this case result will kickstart the City’s efforts to improve safety protocols and standards in animal shelters, preventing such an attack from happening to anyone else.
Details of the German Shepherd Dog Attack Case
Kelly was volunteering at the City of Los Angeles’ North Central Animal Shelter on October 31, 2019, when she was asked to show the 84-pound German Shepherd Jaxx to potential adopters. She was not told about the dog’s known history of violence and aggression which should have been communicated directly on the dog’s kennel card posted on the kennel. Only a few weeks before, Jaxx had been surrendered to the shelter a few days after he was adopted, with his previous owner reporting clearly that Jaxx had aggressive tendencies. The owner even told the shelter that the dog had bitten someone forcefully enough to cause puncture wounds.
As Kelly was unleashing Jaxx on her own, the dog attacked her in his kennel. Jaxx crushed her forearm in his jaws, breaking bones, severing nerves and arteries. Unable to free herself, Kelly shouted for help but was not heard because the employee at the shelter was using earplugs due to the extreme volume in the kennels. Using all her strength, she was able to drag herself and Jaxx, still latched onto her arm, to the front of the shelter after several minutes of struggling, and the employee finally saw her and intervened. The dog was euthanized a few months later.
Medical professionals at the ICU at LAC+USC Medical Center were able to save her arm after several rounds of intensive surgeries and skin grafts and more than a month of hospitalization. However, due to the extensive and crushing injuries to her bones and arteries as a result of the attack, it proved medically impossible to restore her arm to full health and function. To this day, Kelly’s hand is supplied by only one artery whereas all other people have two arteries, resulting in poor blood flow. She has significant limitations with range of motion, grip strength, lifting ability, and deals with persistent pain.
Why Los Angeles Is Liable for the Dog Attack
Attorney Puchalt and our litigation team at Greene Broillet & Wheeler argued that the City of Los Angeles and L.A. Animal Services were fully liable for Kelly’s life-changing injuries due to inexcusable lapses in safety measures. As noted on the shelter’s internal Dog Interview Form, Jaxx’s previous owner reported that the dog was aggressive and had bitten and injured someone. Yet this information was essentially ignored, putting anyone who worked with the animal in danger. Ms. Kaneko signed a waiver and release, as all volunteers do, that could have precluded her from bringing her claims against the City. However, because the jury found that the City acted with “gross negligence,” or an extreme departure from the standard of care, the waiver was invalidated.
The animal shelter acted negligently in several ways, but three major oversights were:
- Failing to enter Jaxx’s Dog Interview Form into the computer and attach the form to Jaxx’s kennel card so Kelly and other workers could quickly check for issues before interacting with the animal.
- Failing to put a “yellow behavior mark” on Jaxx’s kennel card, which is supposed to be standard procedure to warn workers and volunteers of a potentially dangerous dog.
- Failing to document multiple incidents of Jaxx’s aggression with City employees following his surrender.
The Greene Broillet & Wheeler Attorneys argued that allowing Kelly to interact with Jaxx without any warning of the aggression was an extreme breach of the necessary standards of care, especially when considering that Kelly, like most volunteers, was handling Jaxx on her own. The situation is even more egregious when considering that Kelly was handling Jaxx so the dog could be seen by potential adopters, which also put those members of the public at a high risk of being attacked.
Despite the City of Los Angeles vigorously disputed liability, and unwillingness to back down, Attorneys Puchalt and Edzant took the case to trial. Attorneys Puchalt and Edzant are appreciative of the jury members, who heard both sides of the argument, saw through to the truth, and awarded Ms. Kaneko an impressive $6.8-million verdict award. Using the award, she will be able to pay for her extensive past and future medical costs, find some financial stability after the disabling attack, and start to move forward.
For more information about this dog bite lawsuit handled by GB&W, you can visit these links:
- “An animal shelter volunteer who was attacked by a dog that nearly ripped off her arm has been awarded $6.8 million in damages” (Insider)
- “Los Angeles animal shelter volunteer attacked by dog gets nearly $7M” (KTLA 5 News)
If you would like to know more about Greene Broillet & Wheeler of Los Angeles, or if you need our law firm’s help with an injury claim, please contact us online or dial (866) 634-4525 now.