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Coppedge v. Travis

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 29, 2019

CAMILA COPPEDGE
v.
CURTIS TRAVIS

          Argued December 5, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained as a result of an attack by a dog owned by the defendant, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the court, Pittman, J.; judgment for the plaintiff, from which the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Kelly Grey, for the appellant (defendant).

          Katherine L. Matthews, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Elgo, Bright and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          BRIGHT, J.

         The defendant dog owner, Curtis Travis, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered after a trial to the court, in favor of the plaintiff, Camila Coppedge, in this tort action, commenced pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 2013) § 22-357, [1] commonly known as the dog bite statute. On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) ‘‘[t]he evidence supports a finding that . . . § 22-357 does not apply as the dog's conduct was innocent, '' and (2) ‘‘[t]he evidence does not support a finding of proximate cause.'' We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the trial court found the following facts, which it set forth in a July 18, 2017 memorandum of decision. ‘‘On April 14, 2013, the plaintiff, who worked as a personal care assistant to elderly and disabled people, was carrying certain items into a motel room in East Hartford from a motor vehicle. The defendant, who was a long distance truck driver, was playing fetch with his dog on a grassy area next to the motel building. The defendant's dog was a one year old medium-sized Labra doodle named Lilly, with whom the defendant sometimes traveled. At the end of their exercise, the defendant and Lilly intended to return to the motel room where they were staying. Lilly, with no leash attached, bounded toward the motel ahead of the defendant.

         ‘‘The plaintiff saw Lilly coming, became startled and frightened, and tripped and fell as she tried to avoid the dog's advance. Lilly never actually made physical contact with the plaintiff, but came close and stood over the plaintiff as the plaintiff lay on the ground.

         ‘‘The defendant attempted to help the plaintiff up off the ground but words were exchanged about the presence of the dog. The defendant put Lilly in his motel room, away from the plaintiff, and helpfully called 911 for an ambulance.

         ‘‘It was obvious that the plaintiff was injured. She had fallen backwards with her right arm and wrist under her body as she landed. The plaintiff was in great pain. She was taken by ambulance to Manchester Memorial Hospital where she was examined, x-rayed, and treated. Her right wrist was fractured in two places. The plaintiff was discharged from the hospital with a cast on her right wrist.''

         The court further found ‘‘that the exuberant, unleashed Lilly was a proximate cause of the plaintiff falling and injuring herself. There is no dispute that the defendant was, and still is, the owner and keeper of the dog. The court finds that the plaintiff has met her burden of proving all of the essential elements of a claim for damages under . . . § 22-357.'' Thereafter, on the basis of the evidence submitted on the question of damages, the court entered the following damages award, subject to any applicable collateral source reduction: ‘‘[F]or physical and emotional pain and suffering, for loss of use of right hand and wrist for a temporary period during treatment and rehabilitation, and for current 8 [percent] permanent partial impairment which the court finds is related to this incident. Total: $45, 000.'' This appeal followed.

         The defendant claims that (1) ‘‘[t]he evidence supports a finding that . . . § 22-357 does not apply as the dog's conduct was innocent, '' and (2) ‘‘[t]he evidence does not ...


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