50-pound dog bites golf instructor who is out walking. $309K. Orange County.
Defendant disputes that the dog actually bit plaintiff, and the extent of her injuries.
- Case Name: Jones v. Epstein
- Court and Case Number: Orange County / 30-2018-01038155
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, October 01, 2020
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
- Type of Action: Dog Bite
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Deborah Servino
Plaintiffs: Jennefer Jones, 57.
Defendants: Mathew Epstein
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $309,250
- Settlement Amount: $386,106.27
Past medical: $37,000
Future medical: $37,250
Past non-economic: $105,000
Future non-economic: $130,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: The parties settled the case post-verdict for $386,106.27.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Lederer & Nojima LLP by Jon Davidi, Los Angeles.
Panish, Shea, & Boyle by Nathan Werksman, Los Angeles.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Michael Maguire & Associates by Lori Cullman and Jenn Bartick, Costa Mesa.
Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Keith Feder, M.D., orthopedics.
Anthony Ahn, M.D., orthopedic hand surgery.
Ross Nathan, M.D., orthopedic hand surgery.
Douglas Brown, M.D., radiology.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
On December 15, 2016, plaintiff, an LPGA golf instructor, was out for her morning walk in her Laguna Niguel neighborhood. During the walk, she passed by defendant and his dog, "Turkey," a 50-pound mixed-breed dog on a choke collar. As plaintiff was passing defendant, there was interaction between plaintiff and the dog, the nature of which was disputed in court.
That defendant's dog jumped on her right arm, bit her on her right forearm, and pulled her to the ground. The bite was just over plaintiff's radial tunnel, which houses the radial nerve in the forearm. The compression from the bite caused plaintiff significant pain in her forearm. As a result of hitting her elbow on the ground when the dog pulled her down, plaintiff developed tennis elbow.
Plaintiff contended that defendant was strictly liable under the state's dog-bite statute, and that her injuries and treatment were wholly related to the incident, as she never experienced elbow or forearm pain prior.
That his dog scratched plaintiff, and may have broken the skin, but did not bite plaintiff. Further, that plaintiff's injuries were not as severe as she claimed because she was able to socialize with the defendant shortly after the incident, and she did not seek treatment for elbow or forearm pain until two months after the incident.
Moreover, plaintiff was able to continue working as a golf instructor, and continued playing golf despite the injuries she sustained. That plaintiff over-treated by going to too many physical therapy visits despite not seeing significant improvement, and plaintiff will not undergo the surgery she has been recommended.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Radial tunnel syndrome in her right forearm and lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in her right elbow. Plaintiff reported elbow and forearm pain over a month after the incident, then saw an orthopedist over two months after the incident.
Over 3 1/2 years, plaintiff had over 80 physical therapy sessions, two dozen visits with an orthopedist, received a PRP injection, and it was recommended that she have surgery.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $46,803.32
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $37,500
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $119,000
- Defendant §998 Offer: $75,000
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the parties were limited to a voir dire panel of 40 prospective jurors. Sixteen jurors were questioned at a time due to social distancing requirements. Counsel for both parties, the judge, and all jurors wore masks throughout the trial. The jurors were spread out across the courtroom, with only four jurors in the jury box, and five jurors on each side of the gallery.