Charging dog startled plaintiff, who fell and broke wrist. $254K. Los Angeles County.


Woman walking dog on sidewalk is startled when an unleashed dog "charges" at her.

The Case

  • Case Name: Patricia Francis v. Chad Sullivan and Christina Sullivan
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC614012
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, September 13, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, March 25, 2016
  • Type of Case: Negligence
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Mark A. Borenstein
  • Plaintiffs:
    Patricia Francis
  • Defendants:
    Chad and Christina Sullivan
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $254,287.98
  • Economic Damages:

    $20,369.98 stipulated to by defense to be added to the verdict but not disclosed to the jury.

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $79,113.00

    Future: $154,805.00

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 7 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 3 hours.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Court approved costs and post-998 interest.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    B&D Law Group APLC by Michael B. Geoola, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Mark R. Weiner & Associates by Heather M. Roth, Glendale.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kenneth R. Sabbag, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Pasadena.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Stephen P. Kay, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Beverly Hills.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On March 29, 2014, plaintiff, 69, retired, was walking her dog, on a leash, on city sidewalk adjacent to the property of defendants Chad Sullivan and Christina Sullivan in Whittier, an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. Plaintiff was startled by the defendants' dog and, while on the city sidewalk, fell to the ground, injuring her wrist. She sought medical treatment for her wrist injury.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendants' dog, while at all times on the unfenced front lawn, was unleashed and came charging at her, causing her to be startled fall.

    Plaintiff's counsel alleged the Sullivans failed to keep control of their dog. The court refused to allow the introduction of the LA County Title 10, dog leash law, or allow the jury to consider that the dog was at large as decided in Garson v. Juarique and as such would not allow negligence per se jury instructions or arguments.

    Plaintiff's counsel argued that walking a dog outside the front door of a residence and onto the unfenced front lawn without a leash falls below the basic standard of care according to CACI 401.

    The plaintiff was 74 years old, retired and living with her son at time of trial and testified to very limited effects as a result of the injuries. Her only current complaints were not being able to crochet or pick up large pots.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the dog was restrained at all times by the owner holding the dog collar while admitting that the dog was not on a leash, and that plaintiff's own dog wrapped its leash around her legs, causing her to fall.

    Further, that there is no liability since defendants' dog never left the property and never bit or made any contact with plaintiff.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Fractured wrist; open reduction; internal fixation. Plaintiff went to Kaiser the night of the incident and had an ORIF surgery a week later.

    She had three physical therapy visits thereafter but did not treat further.

    Plaintiff argued that she will continue to have permanent pain but will not need any related future medical care. Defense contended that the surgery resolved all issues and she did not have any related limitations or pain.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: Policy limit of $100,000 on March 2, 2018
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $40,000

Additional Notes

Insurer: State Farm Insurance Company.

Per defense counsel:

The plaintiff attorney had an OSC Re: Sanctions against him set by the Court for his conduct during trial, but it was discharged by the Court on November 15, 2019.

At trial, Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for $5,536,980.