By Frank Donnelly
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A Staten Island jury has awarded $150,000 to a former New Dorp Beach resident, who was badly bitten by a dog while he was walking on the street.
Joseph O’Donovan, now 35, was attacked on Nov. 21, 2008, by an American Staffordshire terrier named “Shorty,” said his lawyer, Michael H. Bush of the New Dorp firm, Chelli & Bush. The incident occurred about 10:50 p.m. on Mill Road near Guyon Avenue, Oakwood, said court papers.
The dog was being walked on a leash with a sharp-pronged collar when it suddenly leaped at O’Donovan and bit his cheek, said Bush.
His client suffered a serious injuries which required “numerous” stitches and resulted in scarring, the lawyer said.
Franca Costa of Oakwood Beach owned the dog, said Bush.
At trial in state Supreme Court, St. George, Bush’s associate, Sean Sasso, demonstrated that Shorty had a “long history of vicious propensities,” said Bush. The dog was shown to have frequently barked, growled and lunged at pedestrians while being walked, he said.
O’Donovan, who now lives in Brooklyn, was awarded $100,000 for past pain and suffering and $50,000 for future pain and suffering, the lawyer said.
“Vicious dogs have long plagued Staten Island, and this case demonstrates that owners will be held accountable for their vicious dogs if they continue to knowingly subject the public to them,” said Bush.
While Ms. Costa was not criminally charged, several other Island dog owners have been arrested for their pets’ attacks on people.
In July 2008 two pit bulls fatally mauled Henry Piotrowski, a 90-year-old World War II veteran, in his Port Richmond back yard.
The dogs’ owner, James McNair, was sentenced in November 2009 in state Supreme Court, St. George, to three years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree assault. His companion, Kim DiPrima, was sentenced to five years’ probation after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors said neighbors had approached McNair and Ms. DiPrima several times before the incident to complain about the dogs running loose.
In January, Dongan Hills residents Elise Guzman and John Chan were indicted in connection with two attacks by their 60-pound pit bull named “Cash,” said a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel Donovan.
The dog bit one woman’s leg to the bone, and bit another woman in the groin, prosecutors said. Both incidents occurred in May of last year. Ms. Guzman and Chan have each pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court, St. George, to felony assault and await sentencing.
In an unrelated case, a 34-year-old Port Richmond woman who was injured in a 2008 car accident has settled her two lawsuits for $507,212, said Bush.
Melissa Rodriguez was a passenger in a 2008 GMC Acadia owned by her employer, On Your Mark of West Brighton. At 1:30 p.m. on July 11, 2008, Maria Paula attempted a left turn in front of the Acadia near the corner of Forest and Decker avenues and collided with it, Bush said.
Ms. Rodriguez’s injuries required surgery on her right knee and epidural injections in her back, court papers stated.
Ms. Paula was insured, and the matter was settled before Justice Judith N. McMahon in state Supreme Court, St. George, for the full policy amount of $100,000.
Ms. Rodriguez then made a claim with the underinsurance carrier for her employer’s vehicle. Underinsurance allows an injured party to seek damages from the insurer of the vehicle he or she is occupying when they exceed the liable party’s coverage limits.
The matter was settled prior to arbitration for $350,000, Bush said.
The total settlement was $450,000 plus a waiver of $57,212.33 in Workers’ Compensation benefits, for an overall recovery of $507,212, the lawyer said.
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