Women awarded $750K for attack by pit bull mix dog in 2013

Article from The Daily Record
By: Heather Cobun, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

A Baltimore judge awarded more than $750,000 Wednesday to two women attacked by a pit bull mix dog in 2013.

Wendy Dixon, a resident at an assisted living facility in Baltimore, and Renae Frazier, an employee at the facility, were injured in June 2013 by the dog, which belonged to Rosa Vazquez, the owner and operator of the facility, according to attorney Timothy M. Gunning.

The dog attacked Dixon initially, giving her serious lacerations on her face and wounds on her arms and torso, Gunning said. He added that Frazier was injured when she tried to pull the dog off Dixon. Dixon underwent three surgeries and has permanent scars and continued pain, numbness and reduced mobility, he said.

“She obviously has permanent loss of use, loss of function in her right hand and a little bit in her right arm, (and she) has difficulty grabbing things (and) can’t lift heavy objects,” said Gunning, of Wyatt & Gunning LLC in Towson.

Frazier was afraid of dogs but ran to Dixon’s aid when she heard her screaming, Gunning said. “Ms. Frazier is a hero in all of this,” he said.

Both women filed suit and their cases were consolidated for trial before Baltimore City Circuit Judge Michael A. DiPietro on Aug. 6 and 7. DiPietro awarded Dixon $167,851 in economic damages and $550,000 in noneconomic damages. He awarded Frazier $1,709 in economic damages and $40,000 in noneconomic damages.

“(Dixon) felt vindicated and was happy that the court entered the verdict and the judgment that it did,” Gunning said.

The attack occurred during the period after the Court of Appeals ruled in Tracey v. Solesky that pit bulls were inherently dangerous and that owners would be strictly liable for injuries. The General Assembly later abrogated the court’s ruling.

Gunning said a portion of the trial was spent litigating whether the dog was a pit bull; DiPietro ultimately ruled it was a pit bull mix and Vazquez was not strictly liable. The judge determined that Vazquez and her company were liable for negligence for failing to control the dog.

After the attack, which ended when neighbors beat the dog off Dixon with a bat and a stick, the police arrived and the dog escaped, leading to a search that ended when it was located and shot and killed by an officer, Gunning said.

Defense attorney William F. Burton, of Adams Burton & Moawad P.C. in Chevy Chase, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Wendy Dixon v. Rosa Vazquez, et al., Renae Frazier v. Rosa Vazquez, et al.

Court: Baltimore City Circuit
Case No.: 24-C-16-001787 and 24-C-16-003482 Judge: Michael A. DiPietro
Proceeding: Bench trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiffs ($167,851 in economic damages and $550,000 in noneconomic damages to Wendy Dixon; $1,709 in economic damages and $40,000 in noneconomic damages to Renae Frazier)

Incident: June 14, 2013
Suit filed: March 21, 2016, and June 8, 2016
Verdict: Aug. 7, 2019
Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Timothy M. Gunning of Wyatt & Gunning LLC in Towson and Robert A. Brocato of the Robert A. Brocato Law Office in Towson
Defendants’ Attorneys: William F. Burton of Adams Burton & Moawad P.C. in Chevy Chase Counts: negligence