Massive Civil Award
Independence, MO - Alan L. Hill, who suffered extensive injuries after being attacked by a group of pit bulls, was recently awarded $7.25 million by Judge Vernon E. Scoville, County Court Judge for Jackson County, Missouri. The May 4, 2006, attacks against Hill and two other adult men sparked an outcry for tougher dog laws in the City Independence and neighboring communities. After the attack, the Independence enacted a pit bull ban.
Judge Scoville ruled that several defendants should have known of the dogs' vicious propensities. Listed as defendants were Brittnee Ann Wisdom and James K. Knowles, the owners of the property the pit bulls escaped from, and Wisdom’s mother, Nancy J. Wisdom. Paul Piper, the owner of the dogs, and Bryan Smith, a handyman previously convicted of criminal charges in the case, were named as third-party defendants.
Dr. Charles Beggs, who helped treat Hill, said that large areas of one arm were missing tissue. There was extensive damage everywhere -- to the muscle, skin, blood vessels and nerves. Hill's rehabilitation, he said, "will take years." Judge Scoville agreed and ruled that the attack caused permanent disfigurement and disabling injuries. Hill’s medical bills exceeded $500,000, and his loss of direct and future income was estimated at more than $1 million.
The civil case shed new light on the near deadly 2006 attack, including the fact that the Wisdoms and Knowles all tried to contact animal control to have the pit bulls removed in the days before the dogs' rampage. Brittnee Wisdom left more than one note for Piper, telling him that he needed to have the dogs fenced in or restrained in a cage. "I just rented the place out and the people have small children," she wrote in the note.
On the morning of the attack, the Wisdoms drove to the house to meet animal control officers and have the dogs removed. But the officers had already left. The mother later called Smith to ask him to unlock the door for animal control. He did, but he also left a window open, and the dogs escaped. The dogs quickly went on a rampage, seriously injuring three people. Police eventually were able to locate the dogs and had the animals killed.
Smith later was sentenced to a year in jail for misdemeanor assault and was to serve 100 days in jail as shock time. Piper also was convicted in municipal court.
12/04/07: Flashback: What Pit Bull Attack Victims Suffer, Alan Hill