The defendants invited the plaintiff’s family, including the 3 year-old minor plaintiff, to their vacation home in Maine for Columbus Day weekend in 2008. The defendants took their Shitzu breed dog with them on the trip.
On Sunday, October 12, 2008, the minor plaintiff was innocently playing with the dog when the dog suddenly and without warning bit the plaintiff’s face. The minor plaintiff immediately began to bleed profusely and cry as a result of the pain. Her mother quickly applied pressure to her face using a towel, but when she realized the wound would not stop bleeding, the family made the decision to transport her to Maine Medical Center for treatment.
Once they arrived at the hospital, the doctors examined the minor plaintiff and noted a deep laceration to her upper lip, which required sutures to close. Because the minor plaintiff was traumatized from the incident and in a great deal of pain, she would not stop crying and therefore could not remain still. As a result, the doctors had no choice but to administer conscious sedation to her so they could keep her still long enough to safely perform the procedure.
After the sedation was administered, the minor plaintiff tolerated the procedure well, however she was left with a visible hypertrophic scar to her upper lip from the dog attack.
The defendant’s expert, who was a renowned plastic surgeon in the greater Boston area, testified that he would be able to significantly improve the appearance of the plaintiff’s scar using a combination of surgery and dermabrasion. However, the minor plaintiff’s parents were not comfortable with this idea and were not prepared to have the plaintiff undergo such a procedure given her age and the fact that the only benefit was aesthetic. It was not certain that the opinions held by the defense expert would be admitted at trial. Ultimately, the decision to allow these opinions would have been decided by the trial judge.
The plaintiffs were successful in defeating the defendants’ attempt to have Maine law apply to this action. Maine does not have strict liability under the facts of this case because the incident occurred on the defendants’ property. Therefore, it would have been much more difficult to prove this case had the defendant been successful in applying Maine law.
Eventually, the parties agreed to submit this case to mediation prior to the scheduled trial and they were successful in reaching a resolution to the case outside of the courtroom. The plaintiffs were awarded $137,500.
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