The city of Meriden, Connecticut recently settled a lawsuit with a Massachusetts resident who alleged negligence by the city’s Animal Control following a 2012 dog attack. City officials did not reveal the full amount of the settlement, but over the summer, the plaintiff offered to settle the case for a whopping $175,000. This suggests the final settlement is not far off from this figure.Michael Evans filed the complaint in April 2014, naming Meriden and two Animal Control officers — Bryan Kline and James Barnes — as defendants. According to his complaint, Evans was bitten by a Pitbull-Mastiff mix in April 2012 at Meriden Animal Control. He had previously been interested in adopting the dog, who was named Baby Hippo. The dog was euthanized following the attack.
Animal Control Officer Barnes, who has since retired, brought Baby Hippo to a fenced-in area on a leash so that Evans could determine whether he wanted to adopt it. While in the fenced-in area, Barnes unleashed the dog and fiddled with his collar to adjust the size. When Barnes tried to put the collar back on the dog, the dog attacked Evans. Baby Hippo allegedly bit Evans on the legs, buttocks, genitals, hand, and arm. Barnes, aged 70, told My Record Journal on the phone that the attack was not his fault.
Evans alleged the attack caused him to suffer physically as well as economically. He required significant medical attention to treat his injuries, and he suffered lost wages due to diminished earning capacity. Additionally, he claimed he suffered non-economic damages, such as bodily injuries and emotional suffering. Specifically, the attack rendered Evans unable to enjoy sexual activity, as well as resulting in permanent injuries and scars.
The lawsuit alleges that Meriden negligently failed to follow proper protocol for the dogs and failed to train its staff to properly handle the dogs. It further alleges that Meriden did not provide a safe environment for Evans to assess the dog. Finally, the pleadings claim that Barnes should be held responsible for failing to follow city protocol while showing the dog to Evans. Specifically, Barnes allowed Baby Hippo to be off leash while showing the dog, posing an immediate risk to Evans, and failed to be sufficiently equipped to handle the attack or intervene or subdue the animal to mitigate the injuries, among other things.
Barnes believes he did nothing wrong, calling the attack “a random fluke event.” He said he did the best he could in that situation by grabbing the dog by the jowls. What’s more, he apparently had shown Baby Hippo–who tested negative for rabies–to a half dozen families without an issue prior to the Evans attack. Barnes retired within a few months following the attack, due to his age and health issues. (His doctor would not have allowed him to testify had the case gone to trial.)
City Attorney Deborah Moore said the insurance company made the decision to settle, clarifying that there was no admission of liability by the city, Officer Barnes, or Officer Kline.
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