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Judge Saad strikes again: 16 year-old bitten by a pit bull gets no compensation for pain

Judge Saad, a Robert Bork wannabe on Michigan's Court of Appeals, has consistently proferred interpretations of the law that favor insurers and take rights from citizens and consumers.  In his most recent decision, he joined with another judge to hold that a young girl who was bitten by a pit bull in an unprovoked attack could not identify for the jury the breed of dog that bit her, and could not appeal the jury's decision that she should recieve no compensation for pain and suffering or mental anguish.

You may recall that Bork was nominated for the US Supreme Court, but then denied the appointment when it became apparent that he was way out of the mainstream in his protection of special interests and promulgation of a bizarre legal philosophy.  Later, after years of criticizing "frivolous lawsuits", he attempted to sue an auditorium after he suffered minor injuries when he fell off a stage through his own stupidity.

Henry Saad is a similarly unprincipled shill for the insurance industry and Chamber of Commerce, so far out of the mainstream that he, too, was denied partisan appointments to higher courts.   He has never met an insurance defense that he didn't like.  In this case, a young girl was visiting a friend, when the defendant's pit bull literally jumped into her car and bit her on the abdomen and thigh.  The dog would not release its grip on the victim's thigh until it was punched in the head several times by a bystander.  Fortunately, she did not require stitches or suffer and severe wounds.

Nevertheless, she did make a claim against the dog owner's homeowners insurance policy for the mental anguish and pain and suffering she endured.  The jury awarded her medical expenses but awarded her nothing for her "non-economic" damages; i.e., pain, suffering, mental anguish, fear, etc.  Under the law a jury is not entitled to ignore uncontroverted evidence, and even the defense attorney in this case acknowledged to the jury that the young girl suffered pain, fright and discomfort.  Her attorneys asked the court to either increase the award to include something reasonable for her non-economic damages, or to award a new trial before an unbiased jury.

The girl got nowhere with her argument before the trial court:  this judge had already ruled that it was "irrelevant" that the attacking dog was a pitbull, even though the girl testified that the breed of the dog made the attack and its aftermath more terrifying to her, because of the breed's reputation for the kind of tenacity that led to the dog refusing to release her thigh.  When the girl's attorneys asked the higher court to enforce the law and increase her award to include something reasonable for pain and fright, and to recognize that the breed of the dog was, indeed, relevant to the issues, they met a stone-wall with Saad.  Despite the black-letter [or uncontradicted, and settled] law requiring the jury to award SOMETHING for uncontradicted damages, Saad refused to overturn the verdict.  Unlike the pit bull, he will never bite the hand that feeds him:  that is, the insurance industry.

Over the years we and many other experienced firms have recognized that jurors often under-compensate dogbite victims.  We think this results from several factors.  Most people own and love dogs and few of them have suffered an unprovoked attack.  More importantly, they are not told that the "defendant" dog owner has insurance to cover the attack and when we interview jurors, they always express concern that an award will not cause the dog owner to "lose his house".  Jurors have always been uncomfortable with liability theories that don't involve "fault", and that includes the dogbite statutes that make the owner responsible for injuries caused by an unprovoked attack--even if the owner did nothing negligent.  And finally, jurors frequently under compensate people with injuries that are not "catastrophic" if they think the victim or her attorney is over-reaching in a damage claim.

Sadly, jurists are elected and appointed to modulate these kind of prejudices and to assure that bias does not deprive anyone of a fair day in court.  While jury verdicts deserve fair deference from the courts, that does not and should not preclude our judges from assuring that the law is followed and that uncontroverted damages be "reasonably" compensated.  This young girl's legitimate rights have been thwarted by cynical judges who are more interested in politics than in justice.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262