Bradley M. Cosgrove, Partner at Clifford Law Offices, obtained a record $940,000 verdict late Thursday evening (April 20, 2017) on behalf of a then eight-year-old girl who sustained injuries to her right thumb due to a dog bite after she was asked to help a veterinary employee capture a runaway animal.
According the John Kirkton of the Jury Verdict Reporter, this verdict is the highest verdict in the history of Illinois stemming from a dog bite. The previous record verdict in DuPage County was $335,000. Kirkton also confirmed that this verdict is the highest in the state for a thumb injury without other significant trauma.
On April 23, 1997, an employee of a veterinary practice, Carriage Animal Clinic, located in Lombard, was walking a 10 pound Lhasa Apso purebred dog when it escaped its leash. The dog was chased by the clinic employee for more than two blocks when she asked the plaintiff, Kristen Hayes, then eight years old, to help catch the runaway dog. Hayes and her two sisters were waiting on the family’s front porch for their mother to drive them to school that morning. Hayes pursued the dog with the vet clinic employee for more than a block when she reached down to pick up the dog and was consequently bit on her right thumb, causing puncture wounds, a laceration, and a crushing nerve injury to the terminal fibers of the sensory branch of the radial nerve of the thumb. An injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb was not recognized by medical providers until 32 months after the bite when a surgeon first appreciated laxity of the metacarpal phalangeal joint. Over the next 11 years, Kristen Hayes underwent four surgeries, including a fusion of her right thumb at the metacarpal phalangeal (MCP) joint. As a result of the bite and multiple surgeries, Kristen developed a chronic pain syndrome.
The lawsuit was filed in 2008, just prior to the plaintiff’s 20th birthday and the trial commenced under both a negligence count as well a claim that the veterinary clinic violated the Animal Control Act. The defendant filed a third-party complaint against Kristen Hayes’ parents, Greg and Carol Hayes alleging contribution. The jury returned a verdict under the Animal Control Act, rendering the claim for contribution against Kristen’s parents moot. Patrick Rice of Rice & Associates represented Kristen’s parents.
“This case clearly demonstrates how careless conduct can jeopardize the health and safety of small children and we hope that the verdict will in some way make certain that all veterinary clinics around the county will take necessary precautions to make sure that this type of preventable tragedy can be avoided,” Cosgrove said following the verdict. “My client suffered permanent injury to the thumb of her dominant hand and we are thankful to the jury for providing the justice that Kristen deserved in this situation and we are glad that the verdict provided for financial security to make sure Kristen’s medical needs are accounted for in the future.”
The three-man nine-woman jury returned the record verdict in eight hours. The case was tried before Judge Kenneth Popejoy in DuPage County.
The incident was the subject of an Illinois Appellate Court decision which held that the owners of the dog could not be held strictly liable when the dog was not in their care, custody or control. Hayes v. Adams, 987 N.E2d 402 (2d Dist. 2013).
Charles R. Haskins, associate at the firm, assisted Cosgrove in the nine-day trial.
Name and Phone of Defense attorneys:
Patricia L. Argentati
Samantha A. Petitti
MULHERIN, REHFELDT & VARCHETTO, P.C.
211 S. Wheaton Ave.
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
Phone: (630) 653-9300
Name and Phone of Third-Party Defense Attorney
T. Patrick Rice
RICE & ASSOCIATES, LTD.
311 S. County Farm Road, Suite A
Wheaton, IL 60187
Phone: (630) 260-8880
Case No. 08 L 370