Jury to decide if Dexter woman bitten by pit bull entitled to damages

Posted Aug. 11, 2012, at 4:55 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A jury will decide if a Dexter woman bitten by the part pit bull she was dog-sitting is entitled to damages or not.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday reversed a judge’s ruling that granted summary judgment to the owners of Beans.

Nearly four years ago, Alisa Morgan agreed to care for the dog owned by Robert and Ann Marquis of Garland while the couple attended their son’s graduation from basic training, according to the court’s unanimous opinion penned by Justice Andrew Mead. On Oct. 15, 2008, Morgan went to care for Beans at the Marquis’ home and entered their dark kitchen.

“She saw Beans sitting off to the side; he was not acting aggressively,” Mead wrote. “Morgan turned on the kitchen light over the stove, spoke to Beans and reached down to pet him. The dog lurched up, bit her face, and then retreated.”

Morgan in October 2010 sued the Marquises, who passed the complaint on to the company that issued their homeowners’ insurance. She claimed that Beans caused multiple lacerations on her left face, nose, right cheek and upper neck which caused disfigurement, pain and suffering and required surgery. Morgan sought an unspecified amount of damages.

“Although the insurance company for the Marquises have fought me like a pit bull in denying this claim, the core issue here is simple: When you are going to ask someone to dog-sit for you, shouldn’t you tell them that your dog is a pit bull?” Morgan’s attorney, A.J. Greif of Bangor said Thursday. “Had the Marquises done that, Lisa Morgan would have said ‘Thanks, but I just don’t want to take that risk.’”

Paul Chaiken, the Bangor attorney representing Beans’ owners, called the incident that led to the lawsuit “an unfortunate accident.”

“The Marquises’ family pet had never shown any aggression towards people,” he said Friday. “The Marquis family had Beans for almost four years [before the incident]. That he bit Ms. Morgan was a surprise to all.

“The Marquises have always felt bad that Ms. Morgan was hurt, but are confident that the jury will find that there was no negligence here,” the lawyer continued. “The Marquises did nothing unreasonable. The Law Court agreed it is undisputed that Beans was friendly and interacted well with people and dogs, that he had had obedience training and he was not aggressive towards anyone before this incident.”

Of the five claims Morgan made when she filed the lawsuit, two were sent back to Superior Court Justice Kevin Cuddy for trial. A jury will have to decide who was in control of the dog when the incident happened and whether the Marquises were negligent because they should have know about Beans’ potential to bite someone, Mead wrote for the court.

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