Defense Win
Thursday, February 29, 2024
by: Yvonne Benson and Maggie Diefenbach, Tandem Law

Section: Winter 2024

Yvonne Benson and Maggie Diefenbach, Tandem Law, recently tried a dog bite case to a jury before Judge Adams in Pierce County Superior Court.  The jury returned a defense verdict in under an hour of deliberations, determining that their client was not the owner of the dog.

The case has a long history.  The dog bite occurred on October 19, 2011, outside of the Halftime Sports Saloon in Gig Harbor.  On January 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against two Defendants, claiming that they both owned the dog.  Plaintiff did not take any further action on the case until the scheduled first day of trial, when he showed up and obtained a default Order and Judgment against them on January 7, 2014.

Our client (one of the two Defendants against whom a default order and judgment were entered) received his first notice of the lawsuit in September 2020, by way of a certified letter relating to an Application for a Writ of Garnishment.  We filed a Motion to Vacate the default judgment as to our client only.  On January 8, 2021, the trial court vacated the default judgment and order our client because he was not served with the Summons and Complaint, had a meritorious defense, and justice required it under the unique fact pattern of the case.  The decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals, and the case was remanded back to Pierce County Superior Court for trial on Plaintiff’s claims against our client.

Plaintiff claimed that our client and the other party (who never appeared in the action) owned the dog.  The bite was to Plaintiff’s face and resulted in permanent scarring and disfigurement to the left side of his face.  Our client denied ownership of the dog.  The other defendant was his ex-girlfriend.  They broke up in August 2012, and she moved out and took the dog with her.  He had not seen either of them since that time.  The passage of time and lack of interaction with the dog since August 2012 helped the defense.

The Court granted our motion for a directed verdict on the negligence claim, as our client was not present the night of the bite, did not know that his ex-girlfriend was going to the bar, and did not know she was bringing her dog to the bar.  There was also no evidence of any prior bites.

Trial started on Monday, September 25, 2023.  On Thursday, September 28, 2023, after less than an hour of deliberation, the jury concluded our client was not the owner of the dog, and it rendered a defense verdict in his favor.