On March 9, 2010, Erin Ingram, then an eight year old little girl, was nearly killed when she was attacked by two pit bulls owned by a neighbor. While luckily she did survive, the dog attack did costs her one arm and cause permanent injuries to the other. The criminal trial against the dogs’ owner, Twyann Vaughn, took place this past week in DeKalb County, Georgia State Court. She was charged with two counts each of reckless conduct, violation of the county’s vicious dog ordinance and failure to have the dogs immunized for rabies, all misdemeanors.
During a very emotional trial, the Jurors listened to the 911 call where Erin is heard screaming “Please get them off of me! Please help me. They’re hurting me. Please run them over!” Minutes later, a DeKalb County, Georgia Police officer is heard shooting one of the dogs in order to stop the attack. The Jurors also heard testimony from Erin’s father, Tommy Ingram, and the little girl herself. “I was screaming for help,” she told the courtroom. Did you see anybody else around, the prosecutor asked? “No.” What was going through your mind then? “That I was going to die,” Erin said.
Last Friday, the DeKalb County, Georgia Jury took a little more than 90 minutes to return a guilty verdict against Twyann Vaughn. The Jury found her guilty on all charges. Judge Dax Lopez then sentenced Vaughn to 16 months in jail and 36 months on probation. Prosecutors had asked for four years in jail. The maximum penalty was five years.
Last year, there were 31 fatal dog attacks in the U.S. Even when no death occurs as a result of a dog attack, victims often suffer damage that requires reconstructive surgery such as skin grafting, tissue expansion and scar diminishment, resulting in years of expensive surgical procedures. Unfortunately, the emotional criminal trial that Georgia dog bite victims like young Erin Ingram go through will in no way result in any compensation for them for the devastating injuries that they sustain. Monetary compensation can only be accomplished through a civil proceeding, in which case victims need to retain a personal injury attorney familiar with OCGA § 51-2-7, Georgia’s Dog Bite Statute.
Under Georgia’s Dog Bite Statute, a victim may recover for his/her injuries in one of two ways.
The first way that a victim may recover is if they could prove that the Dog’s owner violated what is commonly known as the “scienter ground.” The scienter ground is met if the victim can prove: (a) that the animal was dangerous or vicious; (b) that the defendant knew that the animal was dangerous or vicious (traditionally called “scienter”); and, (c) that the dogs’ owner either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to roam freely.
The second way that a victim may recover under Georgia’s Dog Bite Statute is they can prove that the Dog’s owner violated what is commonly known as the “Ordiance Ground”. The ordinance ground requires proof that: (a) the animal was not at heel or on a leash as required by a local ordinance, and (b) that the dog’s owner either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to roam freely.
The qualified Atlanta, Georgia Dog Bite Attorneys at Sammons & Carpenter, P.C. are familiar with all of the elements necessary to prove a dog bite case under either method allowed by Georgia’s Dog Bite Statute. We have successfully obtained settlements and verdicts for numerous Atlanta, Georgia victims of dog bite accidents. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a dog attack, call us today at (404) 814-8949 or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation.
Atlanta Journal Constitution
OCGA § 51-2-7
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