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Illinois jury awards six-figure sum to dog bite victim

Illinois dog owners may take a variety of cautions to avoid the potential lawsuits that can arise when guests to their property are bitten. Dog bites can subject owners to premises liability if a jury agrees that reasonable precautions were not taken, such as posting signs, constructing fencing or dog cages, and keeping dogs leashed when in public. If a jury finds a dog owner was negligent, the compensation awarded to dog bite victims can be substantial, as a recent case illustrates.

An appeals court recently affirmed an Illinois jury's award of $140,000 to a dog bite victim whose thumb was allegedly nearly torn from her hand. The woman was visiting her brother and his wife at their home. For reasons that aren't clear, the brother's dog, a lab-husky mix, somehow got loose and was hit on the street by a truck. When the woman attempted to go to the dog's aid, the animal reportedly bit her.

The woman claims that the dog bite required four surgeries on her thumb, totaling around $40,000. To recover her medical expenses and obtain compensation for her pain and suffering, the woman brought a premises liability lawsuit against the dog owners. In her complaint, the woman claimed that even after the surgeries, her thumb injury has substantially impaired her ability to participate in a variety of activities, including caring for her newborn child.

Although the dog owners attempted to shift liability by arguing that the woman may have assumed some of the risk or even became a temporary custodian of the animal when she went to the dog's aid, the jury disagreed. By awarding the dog bite victim such a substantial amount, the jury may have agreed that the dog owners should have kept better control of their pet.

Source:, "Fifth District upholds $140K jury verdict over dog bite," Bethany Krajelis, March 28, 2013

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