Church Wins Dog Bite Case

Posted on Mar 24, 2008

Connecticut Supreme Court justices upheld the ruling of an Appellate Court which overturned a $143,000 jury award in the personal injury case of a Norwalk, Connecticut woman who was attacked at the Norwalk United Methodist Church by a pit bull.

Supreme Court Justice Richard Palmer  agreed with the decision of the Appellate Court that the evidence was not sufficient enough to support a finding that the church was the dog’s “keeper.” The church’s sexton was the owner of the dog, who lived with him at a building owned by the church for several years.


Palmer also noted that during the February 2004 trial, the fact that at the time of the 2000 attack, the church was covered by liability insurance was improperly admitted into evidence by the court.

After the state’s high court turned her efforts to find the church strictly liable for damages, Virginia Auster’s remaining option would be a return to the state’s Superior Court to retry the negligence suit. Her attorney hopes to bring the case back before a jury as soon as possible.

Auster went to a July 27, 2000 meeting of the Nagarote Sister City Project at the church. After finding the door of the parish house locked, Auster went to the living quarters of sexton Pedro Salinas in hope of having someone unlock the door.

Auster, 74-years-old at the time, then asked if someone was home, when the pit bull, Shadow, appeared in the doorway. After spotting her, he ran through a damaged door, biting her leg.

Auster incurred $11,000 in medical costs as a result of the attack. She was willing to accept $75,000 in negotiations for medical costs, distress, and disfigurement.

The incident was not the first bite for Shadow, since euthanized. He bit the preschool director of the church on the foot sometime before 1999.

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