$2.2 Million Verdict for Dog Bite Injuries in Tacoma
On August 21, 2007, at approximately 8:30 a.m., Sue Gorman was sleeping in her bed in her Gig Harbor home. She was awakened by the snarling and growling of two pit bulls, Betty and her son Tank, who had come in through an open pet door and made their way to Sue’s bedroom. Sue’s service dog, Misty, managed to escape immediately, but the pit bulls pounced on Sue’s bed and began attacking her before she could get up. Betty immediately bit into Sue’s left arm and began shaking her head, tearing into Sue’s flesh and causing a gaping wound.
The attack continued for 20 long minutes as Sue got out of bed and was trapped. She tried to protect a neighbor’s dog that had been sleeping in the bed and move towards the doorway of her bedroom, but the pit bulls blocked her escape. Sue tried to get out a gun that she had under the night stand, but it jammed. Sue tried hitting the pit bulls with a walking stick, but it did not phase them, and they continued to bite Sue’s hands.
Betty was particularly vicious, jumping up and biting Sue’s face, arms, and breasts. Sue felt herself getting weaker and recalls an instant where she realized that Betty was trying to “bring her down” so she could get at her throat. Sue knew that she had to get out of her house or she would die.
Her opportunity came when Betty turned to help Tank finish off the neighbor’s dog. Sue managed to grab her telephone as she escaped through her back door and called for help. She was rushed to the hospital with 20-30 bite wounds which required two surgeries over the next three days. She received 27 stitches to her facial wounds alone. Her arms were so torn up that a paramedic testified that Sue looked like she had “pieces of meat hanging from her arms” in the ambulance.
Sue was left with over $94,000 in medical bills; permanent scarring, muscle and tissue loss, and loss of strength in the left arm; and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder which required a year of psychotherapy. The neighbor’s dog died shortly after the attack. The pit bulls were ultimately euthanized.
On July 21, 2011, Mike McKasy and Shelly Speir started Sue’s trial against Shellie Wilson and Zachary Martin, the owners of Betty; Jacqueline Evans-Hubbard, the owner of Tank; and Pierce County. The trial lasted 10 days including interruptions to accommodate the judge’s docket and a day of vacation for the Pierce County prosecutor.
At the conclusion, the jury awarded all of Sue’s past medical expenses, $12,300 for future medical expenses, and $2.1 million in non-economic damages. All 12 jurors concurred in the dollar amounts awarded.