The plaintiff traveled to the defendants’ home to see a dog that she was considering adopting. The defendants were the dog’s “foster family,” which was set-up through an animal rescue network. The plaintiff was greeted at the door by the defendants and also by the adoptive dog. An experienced dog owner, the plaintiff began interacting with the dog, and the defendant suggested she help give him his weekly bath. The plaintiff agreed and followed the defendant’s instructions while bathing him. As the plaintiff was drying the dog with a towel, the dog began to growl and unexpectedly lunged forward, and began biting the plaintiff’s face. The plaintiff immediately covered her mouth with her hand and realized that she was bleeding profusely. The plaintiff ran to a mirror to find that her nose had been bitten and a large section of her upper lip was completely missing. The defendant immediately drove the plaintiff to the emergency room. On the way to the hospital, the plaintiff learned that the defendant had himself been bitten by the same dog just a few weeks earlier, which required emergency treatment.
Emergency room physicians determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were non-suturable and a clean, dry dressing was applied. She was advised to follow up with a plastic surgeon immediately. Early the next morning, the plaintiff presented to a plastic surgeon who immediately admitted her for lip reconstruction surgery and skin grafts. The plaintiff’s plastic surgeon successfully reconstituted her upper lip from tissue inside her lower lip and a skin graft. Despite an overwhelmingly successful lip reconstruction, the plaintiff was nevertheless left with visible scars.
At the time of the injury the plaintiff was employed in an elder care field which involved public speaking and face to face interaction. As a result of the severe trauma of the dog bite, the pain associated with speaking and facial movement, and obvious disfigurement, the plaintiff was caused to miss significant time from work.
The plaintiff filed a claim against the dog’s “foster family” and the dog’s owner, the rescue network, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155, the so-called “Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute”. The defendants’ respective insurance companies agreed on joint tort liability and the claim was settled following one day of mediation.
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