A New Haven woman who was brutally attacked by a Shetland dog mix while walking her own dog in Stonington was awarded $259,583 by a New London Superior Court judge.
Jacqueline Poisson, now 73, was walking her Labrador mix near her home when the dog, which was being walked by a 12-year-old boy, broke loose and attacked five and a half years ago, according to Isabel Del Vecchio, her attorney. The attack left Poisson with a concussion and injuries to her spine, neck and back, according to the lawsuit filed in April 2014.
Following a three-and-a-half-day bench trial in September, Superior Court Judge Timothy Bates awarded Poisson $250,000 in damages on Nov. 3 for pain and suffering, and $9,583 for medical costs.
Del Vecchio said she was willing to settle the case before the trial for $100,000, the homeowners policy limit for Jose and Margarida Gonsalves, the owners of the dog. But, Del Vecchio said, a Liberty Mutual attorney declined the offer.
The case is expected to be appealed to Appellate Court. If Poisson ends up prevailing and the $259,583 stands, Del Vecchio said she’s concerned about what Liberty Mutual might do.
“We were attempting to settle for the policy and they refused,” said Del Vecchio, an associate with the Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck & Scott D. Camasaar in North Stonington. “It will be interesting to see if they will pay for the entire verdict or just pay the $100,000 and leave the Gonsalves out to dry.”
If the verdict stands and Liberty Mutual does not agree to pay, Del Vecchio said she we will file a bad-faith claim against the insurance carrier.
“They had every opportunity to settle within the policy limits and—by not doing so—put the insured at risk. I will continue to fight for justice for my client,” Del Vecchio said.
Michael Carreira, an attorney with Meehan, Turret & Rosenbaum in Glastonbury, represented Liberty Mutual. Carreira did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Del Vecchio said she’s confident the judge’s verdict will stand on appeal.
“We had an expert, Dr. Patrick Doherty, who is the head of neurosurgery at Yale New Haven Hospital, who treated my client,” Del Vecchio said. “He found a fracture in her back related to this incident. The defense counsel had no experts. My client had some prior falls and they tried to muddy the waters by saying those falls were a primary factor to her pain. Dr. Doherty was deposed twice and he stuck by his patient.”
Del Vecchio, who asked for $520,000 during the trial, said she is satisfied with the judge’s decision.
“I asked for more, but I think Judge Bates is a fair judge and did a good job listening to both parties,” she said.
The dog that attacked Poisson had previously attacked two other people, Del Vecchio said. The dog also bit the animal control officer who came after the incident to ticket the family. After that incident, animal control and the Gonsalves made a joint decision to put the dog down.