Jurors award man $10,000 in dog bite case

By David Yates | Jan 7, 2010

Shortly after he was bitten by his best friend's dog, Bruce Newman bit back and sued his longtime pal.

Since his former buddy has become a courtroom adversary, Newman can now count 12 local jurors as his new friends since they awarded him $10,000 on Wednesday, Jan. 6.

Newman filed suit against Alfred Watts and his wife, Jeanette, in 2005 -- 10 months after the couple's boxer, Abby, sunk her teeth into his face.

The trial began Tuesday, Jan. 5, in Jefferson County Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th District Court. Jurors heard less than two days of testimony before beginning deliberations on Wednesday afternoon.

During the trial, Newman testified that on Nov. 27, 2004, he paid a visit to the Watts' home in hopes of catching a glimpse of Abby and her newborn litter of Boxer puppies.

Newman says he approached the pen sheltering Abby and the pups, and as he bent over and peered down, Abby reacted defensively and bit his lip and cheek, according to court documents and testimony.

Jeanette Watts testified that she had told Newman not to enter her home or approach Abby.

However, her testimony was contradicted by a police report presented during the trial which stated that Jeanette had only warned Newman not to get too close.

Newman contends the Wattses knew of Abby's "dangerous propensity" and were negligent in failing to restrain the dog in the presence of company.

Court papers say Abby had bitten others on three different occasions, each of which involved children playing roughly with the dog.

"How many times did that dog have to bite before they (admitted) they had a dangerous dog," said plaintiff's attorney Trent Devenzio. "Abby had bitten three times before. Newman suffered the wrath of this dog."

However, the Wattses argue all of Abby's attacks have been defensive.

Jeanette Watts testified that Newman told her it was his fault after the incident.

Medical records show that Newman needed sutures on his lip and cheek.

Jurors found Jeanette Watts 80 percent negligent for allowing Newman into her home, and Newman 20 percent negligent for getting too close to Abby.

They awarded him $2,000 for mental anguish, $4,000 for impairment, $4,287 for medical expenses and $500 for lost wages.

However, that amount was far less than the $40,000 Newman had asked for as an award.

The Wattses were represented in part by Gordon Pate of the Pate & Spivey law firm.

Case No. B175-836

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