"Dog bites man" is not a news story, the axiom goes. But when a pit bull took off part of Lonnie Burts’ finger, the injured man hired Mark Anderson and Robert Kisselburgh of The Anderson Law Firm in Fort Worth. The two lawyers helped him win a May 7 final judgment against the dog’s owners, who are his neighbors, for $147,000.

Anderson and Kisselburgh had doubts at the outset about their client’s odds.

"I didn’t jump on it initially," recalls Anderson about the case.

But ultimately he and Kisselburgh believe they prevailed at trial by tracking down Burts’ other neighbors, who testified that they believed the pit bull had killed another dog and that the pit bull frightened children.

In a petition filed Nov. 4, 2011 in Lonnie Burts v. Leticia Grimaldo, et al. in the 352nd District Court in Tarrant County, Burts alleged that the pit bull pushed its head through a hole in the fence while Burts swept his driveway and began attacking Burts’ dog. Burts separated the two animals, then the pit bull allegedly lunged for Burts and bit his finger. After several medical procedures, Burts lost the digit down to his first knuckle. Burts alleged negligence and negligent-handling causes of action and sought $150,000 in damages.

In an answer filed Oct. 8, 2012, the defendants denied the allegations and cited contributory negligence as an affirmative defense.

Scott Whitcomb of Dallas, who represents the defendants, did not return a call seeking comment.

After a three day trial — one to pick a jury, a second for testimony and a third day for closings — a jury deliberated for less than a full day and issued an April 18 verdict, finding the defendants’ negligence caused the damages and awarding $147,000. Judge Bonnie Sudderth of the 352nd District Court based her final judgment on that verdict.

Anderson says he and Kisselburgh shared trial duties, evenly splitting voir dire, opening and closings, and questioning of witnesses. He says they won the case by staying persistent during the development of evidence. They knocked on doors to find neighbors who would testify about the dog as "bad."

Kisselburgh says those witnesses’ testimony set the stage. Then, he says, the defendants’ testimony that their dog wasn’t bad and that they weren’t negligent raised questions about their credibility with the jury.

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