Dog bite case settles for $85K after $132K verdict. Contra Costa County.


Utility company employee is bitten by dog at a customer's residence.  PTSD and inability to work at jobs that require residential visits.

The Case

  • Case Name: Shannon M. Church v. Barbara J. Sarkis, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Contra Costa County Superior Court / MSC15-01238
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, January 19, 2017
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, July 10, 2015
  • Type of Case: Animal Encounter, Dog Bite
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Steve Austin
  • Plaintiffs:
    Shannon M. Church, 30, PG&E mapping coordinator.
  • Defendants:
    Barbara J. Sarkis, homeowner, dog owner.
  • Type of Result: Settlement at Trial

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $131,834.72
  • Net Verdict or Award: $85,000 – settlement after verdict due to 998 and lien purchase deductions.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: $9,797.72

    Future medical: $4,000

    Past wages: $97,637

    Future wages: $0

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past pain and suffering: $20,000

    Future pain and suffering: $0

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 11-1.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Reduction per 998 $132,000 to $85,000.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Appel Law Firm, LLP, by Joseph Appel, Esq., Walnut Creek.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    McNamara, Ney, Beatty, Slattery, Borges & Ambacher by Thomas G. Beatty, Walnut Creek.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Vladimir Bokarius, M.D., psychiatry, San Mateo.

    Surrender Punia, M.D., psychiatry, Pleasant Hill.

    Gerald Marcus, LMFT, PTSD, Walnut Creek.

    Sony R. Nathaniel, LMFT, PTSD, Manteca.

    June G. Gonzales, M.D., occupational medicine, Walnut Creek.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Howard J. Friedman, Ph.D., ABPP, neuropsychology, Walnut Creek.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Carol Hyland, vocational rehabilitation, Lafayette.

    Susan Jue, PG&E.

    Phillip H. Allman, III, economics, LLC, Oakland.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):


Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On February 4, 2015 plaintiff was on-site at defendant's Orinda residence in her capacity as a PG&E employee. Plaintiff was bitten by a 90-pound German Shepherd in the lower buttocks area. She complained of PTSD, took nearly a year off work, and sought future wage loss of $1,000,000 for inability to work for in her capacity as an employee who went to customer properties for PG&E. She was placed in a lower-paying job.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the dog bite was severe in nature and caused life-long psychological trauma including future wage loss as plaintiff could no longer perform work that involved visiting residences.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff suffered from long-term pre-existing health and psychiatric issues.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Bite, pain, suffering, scarring, sexual dysfunction, and PTSD including frequent panic attacks.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $9,797.72
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $4,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $140,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $1,000,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $500,000
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: $1,700,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $150,000

Additional Notes

Case settled for $85,000 after verdict of $132,000 due to 998 costs recoverable by defendant due to a $150,000 CCP 998.