Pit Bull Fatal Attack: Criminal Liability? Civil Liability? Or Both?

Pit-bull

Jacob Bisbee Two year
old Jacob Bisbee was mauled to death by three pit bulls (often considered a
Steven Hayashidangerous breed) owned by his
step-grandfather, Steven Hayashi.  The
tragedy occurred in 2010.  According to Contra Costa County prosecuting attorney Mary Knox:

 

 

  1. Hayashi repeatedly ignored pleas by his wife and Jacob’s
    father to remove his five pit bulls from the home the extended family shared on
    Trailcreek Court
  2. July 22, 2010: Hayashi was designated as the caretaker
    for Jacob and his four year old brother while his wife slept after a night
    shift.
  3. Hayashi went out to play tennis with his son, leaving
    Jacob and the brother unsupervised.
  4. Hayashi did not lock the door to the garage where the
    pit bulls were kept.  He knew the boys
    could uopen the door but they usually stayed in their room.
  5. Jacob wandered into the garage and found three of the
    five pit bulls (the other two were in the yard)

The legal question to be answered is not whether Hayashi
intended for this tragedy to happen but whether the dog attack constituted a
crime.  Hayashi is currently being tried
for involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.  If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years
in prison.

In a jailhouse interview with the San Francisco Chronicle,
Hayashi acknowledged that he had ignored signs which would warn him of the dogs’
dangerous propensities.  Those signs
included one of the dogs killing his Chihuahua.

At the preliminary hearing, Judge Clare Maier said that
there was not enough evidence to support a murder charge because there was “scant
evidence” that Hayashi’s dogs had previously attacked humans.

Hayashi is seeking acquittal and is being represented by
attorney David Cohen.  Over Cohen’s objections,
Knox opened the trial last week by showing photos taken at a hospital of the
little boy’s disfigured body.

Cohen was quoted as saying “The D.A.’s case is all about the
terrible photos and a terrible tragedy and that somebody’s got to pay.  This family and my client have suffered
tremendously.  He certainly didn’t intend
for this to happen.”

This is certainly a tragedy.
Whether Hayashi’s negligence will rise to the level of a guilty verdict
is a question to be decided during this trial.

In civil court, someone in Hayashi’s shoes could be sued for
wrongful death based on both theories of negligence and a statutory
liability
.

In my practice I’ve represented, and continue to represent,
many victims of dog attacks. This is a tragedy that could have, and should have, been avoided.

Paper Shredders Putting Kids and Pets at Risk of Major Injury

Paper shredder NO Yesterday I received an e-mail from a parent whose young child lost 3 fingers in a home paper shredder.  It happened in a flash.  The poor mother did everything she could to save the child's  little fingers but, alas, to no avail.  Fingers are no match for the blades of a paper shredder.  The fault of the parent?  I think not.  Can she sue someone for the injuries sustained by her child?  Yes.  Should she sue someone for the injuries sustained by her child?  Yes.  Read on.

Manufacturers of paper shredders, whether for home or business use, are aware of the potential dangers of their products.  It's not rocket science that a child's fingers, or a dog's tongue, are small enough to find there way into the paper entry chute.  Very few manufacturers have addressed this issue.  Later in this article you will find information on two manufacturers that provide paper shredders with built in safety features designed to prevent injuries to kids and pets.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission published an article on this very subject.  Paper Shredder Safety Alert says "From January 2000 through September 2005, CPSC received 50 reports of incidents involving finger amputations, lacerations, and other finger injuries from paper shredders. The majority of injuries were to young children under age 5."  The incidents happen so quickly that they can occur even in the presence of adult supervision!  They offer the following safety tips:

  • Never allow children to operate paper shredders, even under adult supervision. Paper shredders can pull children’s fingers into the shredder mechanism.
  • Place the paper shredder in an area less accessible to children.
  • Unplug the paper shredder power cord when the shredder is not in use.
  • Do not place hands or fingers in the shredder opening.
  • Do not operate a paper shredder while wearing loose fitting clothing that may enter the shredder opening.
  • Keep hair and items, such as a tie or a long necklace, away from the shredder opening.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission wrote an extensive article on the evaluation of paper shredder related finger injuries.  Read CPSC Evaluation of Finger Injuries.  This article is in .pdf format.  If you can't open it, click here to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

   

Child Loses Fingers in Shredder (CBS News Video)

Fingers amputated child
CBS News aired a video about the tragic story of Lisa Broadfoot's little boy Talan who "screamed, and then was begging me to get his hands out of this machine, saying, 'Please, Mommy, please, Mommy, get my hand out.' He was just screaming and crying and begging."  She rushed him to the hospital with the shredder still attached. He lost 3 fingers and, to this day, keeps asking his mommy when they're going to grow back.  Watch the video here.

Dog Shreds Tongue in Shredder (ABC News Video)

Tongue shredded dog 002

Kids aren't the only beings vulnerable to the possible horrors of the home paper shredder.  I found several instances of dogs shredding their tongues when trying to lick the paper shredder.  Shred the tongue to much and the doggie is a candidate for euthanasia because dogs use their tongues to drink water.  A doggie horror story was aired on ABC News.  Click here to watch the video.

Paper Shredder Horror Stories

Snopes.com has an article devoted to paper shredder horror stories too gruesome to discuss here.  You can go directly to their article on the web by clicking here  or to the .pdf version of the article by clicking here.

Child and Pet Safe Paper Shredders

Paper shredder fellowes safe sb-97cs
A little research revealed that horrifyingly few manufacturers provide child or pet safe shredders.  I found two (2) such manufacturers: Fellowes and Royal.  Fellowes DS-1 and DS-2 both have the same SafeSense feature that turns off the blades if the paper entry slot is touched, thereby preventing fingers, tongues and tails from finding their way into the grasp of the life-changing blades.  Fellowes manufactures several other safe paper shredders including the Powershred P-57cs and SB-97cs models.

The Royal PX 110 MX paper shredder, with its patented throat safety guard, is also designed to protect children and pets from injury.

Please note that I have not personally used these shredders and am only reporting what I've been reading on the Internet.  In other words, I can't vouch for the viability of the safety claims made by these manufacturers.  You'll need to do your own research before purchasing any of these shredders.

Can You Sue For Paper Shredder Related Injuries?

Product liability
Yes.  Injuries related to bad design or manufacture of a product fall into the product liability category.  If an injury is sustained as a result of bad design or manufacture, then everyone in the chain of commerce (i.e., manufacturer, distributor, retailer) can be held liable for that injury or injuries.  When you buy  or use a product, it is reasonable to assume that the product will be safe when used for its intended purpose.  It is also reasonable to assume that the product will warn you of any potential dangers.  If the product is then unsafe for use or if you have not been warned of its potential dangers, and if an injury occurs, then you have the legal right to take everyone in the chain of commerce to task.  Will they put up a defense?  Yes.  Are you guaranteed to prevail?  No.  However, an attorney experienced in the area of product liability will analyze the facts as they apply to the law and determine whether you have a viable case and proceed from there. 

What type of compensation are you entitled to?  The injured person is entitled to compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings, future medical expenses and loss of earnings, and pain and suffering. 

Read more about product liability in the Case of the Exploding Wine Bottle.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured, please call me immediately at

(323) 852-1100 or send an e-mail to me at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

Fatalities on the Rise in Vehicle-Animal Crashes

Deer_eyes_1 Sheep on highway jpg  Road_surprises 

I was fascinated by the Associated Press report which begins with "Fatalities from vehicle crashes with deer and other animals have more than doubled over the last 15 years…"  Click here to read the entire story.  

Being an animal lover, it pains me to think that the phrase "deer caught in the headlights" has real life and death consequences both for the deer and unsuspecting motorists and their passengers.  But is it just the deer?  What about farm animals who unwittingly escape the confines of the land in which they live?  And the dog or cat whose owner turned their head for just a moment in time and then lose their precious pet?  I for one won't let my Beagle Pedro out the door without a leash because, once outside, he will follow his nose and not my commands.  When he's sleeping he looks perfectly sane

Pedro Photos 2006 006  Beagle following nose

But Beagles, and other dogs, follow their nose.  The bottom line is we must protect our innocent pets from themselves.  But I digress…

So I started doing a little research on Vehicle-Animal crashes.  The Wilderness Medical Society authored the fascinating article Risk Factors Associated With Fatal Animal-Vehicle Collisions in the United States, 1995-2004.  In that article, they come to the following conclusion: "The number of fatal animal-vehicle collisions is increasing. Various methods to reduce such collisions are described, with fencing appearing to be the most effective. The use of personal restraints such as seat belts in passenger vehicles and helmets for motorcycle and all-terrain-vehicle riders may decrease fatalities during a collision."  Click here to read the entire study.

In California, we have the Doctrine of Imminent Peril which states "“[A] person who, without negligence on his part, is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with peril, arising from either the actual presence, or the appearance, of imminent danger to himself or to others, is not expected nor required to use the same judgment and prudence that is required of him in the exercise of ordinary care in calmer and more deliberate moments.” Leo v. Dunham (1953) 41 Cal.2d 712, 714 This is a doctrine that can be invoked by either the plaintiff or defendant in a case.  For example, this would apply to an auto accident where someone swerved to avoid an animal in the road.  The person causing that imminent danger, for example a rancher whose fences are in disrepair and, as a result of that disrepair an animal winds up in the middle of the highway causing an accident, can be held liable for the injuries caused by that accident.

Below are some related links:

Highway Loss Date Institute: Collisions with deer and other animals spike in November; fatal crashes up 50% since 2000.  Anne McCartt, IIHS's senior vice president for research, provides this poignant conclusion:

"A majority of the people killed in these crashes weren't killed by contact with the animal," McCartt says. "As with other kinds of crashes, safety belts and motorcycle helmets could have prevented many of the deaths."

Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association which discussed Driver Safety Tips; If You Hit an Animal; Colorado Statistics; National Statistics and provides Other Resources.  The most heartbreaking, but practical, tip that they provide states "If you cannot stop in time, unfortunate as it may be, it is usually safer to hit the animal than to swerve. Swerving may land you in the path of another car or off the road in a ditch."

 AP New Report Video: Fatalities Rising in US Vehicle-animal Crashes

Do Not Crash Trying To Avoid Animals Video: Sad but graphic video  

If you, or someone you know, has been injured, please call me immediately at (323) 852-1100 or send an e-mail to me at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"