WATERLOO | The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a $125,655 judgment in a lawsuit brought by the mother of a child who was bit by a pit bull.
Teresa Burt took the dog’s owner, Anthony Miller, to court after her 11-year-old son was bit in the leg while visiting in May 2009. The youth was in the hospital for 16 days, underwent five surgeries and walks with a limp, according to court records.
At trial in 2012, the judge awarded $54,655 in medical expenses, $30,000 for pain and suffering, and $30,000 for loss of body. The mother was also awarded $11,000 for loss of consortium.
Miller appealed, arguing in part that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that he knew the dog was vicious. He also said the boy’s father should share fault because he had been living with him and was inside the house when the bite occurred.
In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the Iowa Court of Appeals said Miller’s knowledge or lack of knowledge of the dog’s viciousness isn’t an essential element of the claim, and a person having temporary care of a dog can’t be considered the owner.
Under Iowa law, the only defense to dog bite liability is if the person bitten was acting unlawfully or if the dog had rabies and the owner didn’t know it was infected, according to the lawsuit.
The bite occurred at Miller’s home when the boy was visiting his father on a weekend. The dog started barking at him and chased him. The youth tripped when he tried to run, and the dog bit his leg.
The father pulled the dog off the boy, and Miller later had the dog put down, according to court records.