Woman Awarded $404,366 in Dog-Bite Case

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

By JASON ROWE
The Post Star

BALLSTON SPA - A jury has awarded a Gansevoort woman more than $400,000 for injuries she sustained when she was attacked by a Saratoga couple's dog in 1998.

The jury ordered the dog's owners, Peter and Carol Bennett, to pay Johanna Calabro $404,366 for past and future pain and suffering from the attack. The jury took slightly less than two hours to reach a verdict Monday in the three-day civil trial that started last week in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County.

The lawyer who represented Calabro, Gus Fotopoulos of Newburgh, said his client was injured in July 1998 when she visited the Bennetts' home in the town of Saratoga on a business matter regarding her cleaning service.

Calabro, 57, was attacked by the Bennetts' Siberian husky when the dog entered the room where she was standing, Fotopoulos said. She suffered injuries to the left side of her face, nose and upper lip. Fotopoulos said the attack caused a permanent speech impediment as well as nerve damage.

The dog was put to death after a mandatory 15-day waiting period in which it was tested for rabies or other diseases, Fotopoulos said.

Contacted at her home late Tuesday afternoon, Calabro said she was pleased with the decision. "I'm very happy with how it came out," she said.

She referred all other questions to Fotopoulos.
A lawyer for the Bennetts, Michael Conway of Albany, did not respond to several messages left at his office Tuesday. Attempts to reach the Bennetts for comment also were unsuccessful.

The reason the dog entered the house was disputed at trial, Fotopoulos said.

Calabro testified that Peter Bennett was introducing the dog to her, which Fotopoulos said showed that the Bennetts willfully allowed Calabro to come in contact with the dog.

The Bennetts and their lawyer argued that the dog got loose when Peter Bennett was bringing it through the house to put it in another room.

Fotopoulos argued that the Bennetts were aware the animal had shown aggressive tendencies toward other people in the past.

Two neighbors of the Bennetts testified that the dog had lunged at them previously. They also said their dog was involved in a minor scuffle with the Bennetts' dog when it wandered into the couple's yard. The neighbors said they had alerted the Bennetts about the dog's behavior.

"We obviously felt they knew the dog had a viscous propensity," Fotopoulos said.

He said the Bennetts maintained at trial that they did not know the dog was prone to violence.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.