As a Jacksonville attorney who continues to represent people attacked by dogs this story is very disappointing. This month a Florida appellate court overturned a $2.25 million jury verdict against the city of Delray Beach in a vicious dog attack that left a woman without use of her right arm.
In 2002, hotel housekeeper Marguene St. Juste was attacked by two Rottweiler mixes — Fuzzy and Cinny — as she walked along Northeast Third Avenue. Many prior complaints had been made to the city about these dogs running loose.
Last year, a Palm Beach County jury awarded St. Juste $3.7 million for past medical bills, lost wages, future earning capacity, pain, suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and loss of capacity for enjoyment of life in the past and money for the future. Jurors found Delray Beach to be 60 percent liable and the dogs’ owner, Keli Nowling, to be 40 percent liable. Collecting any money from Nowling might prove fruitless. After the attack she left Florida and did not mount a defense at trial.
In a two-to-one decision, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that the decision by Delray Beach’s animal control officer and police not to impound the dogs was discretionary and therefore the city was immune.
What do we have to do as citizens to keep ourselves and our children safe from vicious dogs? Too many times we see neighbors who let their dogs run wild on our streets. I am sure that this verdict sent a message to the city of Delray Beach to take these complaints more seriously.
If you have seen a dog roaming free in your neighborhood I would urge you to call Jacksonville Animal Care and Control at (904) 387-8963. If you have been attacked or bitten by a dog please call The Law Offices of Henry E. Gare at (904) 387-6101.