Dog bites drunk woman at party; jury awards $120,000, finds no contributory negligence. San Diego County.


Plaintiff was at a party and opened the wrong door as she tried to leave the room to smoke. She accidentally entered the garage of defendants and was attacked by their pit bull, suffering injury to her lip and chin.  No contributory negligence was found on the part of the plaintiff despite her high blood alcohol level.

The Case

  • Case Name: Paulette Morales v. Lizet Medina, et al
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego Superior Court - Vista/ 37-2011-00555607
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, January 10, 2013
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, June 21, 2011
  • Type of Case: Dog Bite
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Robert Dahlquist
  • Plaintiffs:
    Paulette Morales, 19, Costco Associate
  • Defendants:
    Lizet Medina, Fidel Medina, Alma Medina
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $120,000
  • Economic Damages:

    $7,500: past medical.

    $15,000: future medical.

  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2.5 hours
  • Jury Polls: 9-3 on damages; 9-3 on liability.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    BISNAR | CHASE by H. Gavin Long, Newport Beach
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Law Offices of Borton Petrini, LLP by Jason A. Cohen, San Diego

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Bruce Dubin, M.D., plastic surgery, Newport Beach
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Ian Macyntire, Ph.D., toxicology, San Diego

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On July 19th, 2009, plaintiff was at a party in the yard of defendants' home. She was drinking along with the rest of the guests. After a noise complaint was made by the neighbors, the party was brought inside the house. Plaintiff wanted to smoke and went to what she thought was the grandmother's room, but she opened the wrong door and entered the garage, where she was bitten by the defendants' pit bull. At the emergency room, plaintiff's blood alcohol level was .189, as measured four-and-a-half hours after the attack.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendants were strictly liable under California's Dog Bite Statute and that her intoxication did not contribute to the injury.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff was contributorily negligent and that the plaintiff's injuries were caused by the fact that she opened the wrong door due to her intoxication.


Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Injuries to lip and chin requiring plastic surgery.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $7,500
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $15,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $300,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $85,000