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Dentist settles dog-bite case against neighbors

A dentist from Catonsville has accepted a six-figure settlement from her former next-door neighbors in a lawsuit alleging she was attacked by their 70-pound mixed-breed dog, her attorney said.

Dr. Shannon J. Kaiser suffered bites on her forearm, legs and hips in the September 2011 incident, according to her lawyer, Clay M. Barnes.

“In this attack, she thought she was going to die,” Barnes said.

Kaiser and the defendants, Frederic P. Bell and Kimberly E. Bell, agreed to the $115,000 settlement a week before their trial date last month, Barnes said. According to court records, the action was voluntarily dismissed from Baltimore County Circuit Court on Sept. 25.

Frank F. Daily, a lawyer for the Bells, did not respond to a request for comment.

Kaiser was mowing her front yard when Oliver, the Bells’ unleashed dog, ran from their “unsecured backyard” toward Kaiser’s house, according to the lawsuit.

Kaiser and the Bells had been neighbors for several years, and Oliver had nipped at Kaiser’s 11-year-old daughter a month before the incident, according to Barnes, a Towson solo practitioner.

Oliver attacked Kaiser in front of Kaiser’s daughter, according to the complaint. The Bells and other neighbors attempted to restrain Oliver but the dog “kept getting free and going after her,” said Barnes. The incident lasted approximately four minutes before Oliver was finally restrained by a choke collar, the lawyer said.

Kaiser was taken to a hospital where she received stitches for her wounds, according to Barnes. She had used her arms to block her face and was worried that the attack might affect her dental practice, Barnes said. A 1994 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, Kaiser has her own practice in Baltimore.

The lawsuit, filed in April 2013, alleges the Bells “knew about and were on actual notice of their dog’s dangerous and/or vicious propensities and yet they nevertheless continued to own and to harbor this animal on their property.”

Barnes said his client still has a fear of dogs, including when she runs through her neighborhood.

“It was such a wretched experience,” he said.

The Bells have since moved away, Barnes said.

At the time of the incident, owners were liable for dog attacks only if the plaintiff could prove the owner had reason to know of the dog’s violent propensities. In 2012, Maryland’s highest court effectively changed that standard to strict liability for pit bulls, ruling that the breed is inherently dangerous.

After two years of legislative rancor, a compromise bill passed the General Assembly this year that returns to a breed-neutral standard. The law now presumes that all owners are liable for dog attacks, but allows the owners to rebut that presumption by proving they had no reason to suspect their dog had violent propensities.

KAISER V. BELL, ET UX.

Court:

Baltimore County Circuit Court

Case No.:

03C13004453

Outcome:

Pretrial settlement of $115,000 for plaintiff

Dates:

Event: Sept. 30, 2011

Suit filed: April 22, 2013

Settlement order: Sept. 25, 2014

Plaintiff’s Attorney:

Clay M. Barnes of the Law Office of Clay M. Barnes LLC in Towson

Defendants’ Attorney:

Frank F. Daily of The Law Offices of Frank F. Daily P.A. in Hunt Valley

Counts:

Nuisance, strict liability and negligence