Part of Carter Mario Injury Lawyers’ co-promotional history with the West Haven Animal Shelter
MILFORD, Connecticut––A March 12, 2019 dog-for-adoption posting by the West Haven Animal Shelter, of West Haven, Connecticut, superficially resembled thousands of others posted every day to social media.
But it struck one ANIMALS 24-7 reader as alarmingly different.
What the West Haven Animal Shelter said:
Read the West Haven Animal Shelter text, in full:
“Meet Parker! This big headed gentle giant is looking for his forever home. Parker is a super friendly, and goofy Mastiff mix who loves to run and play. He is around 2 years old, neutered, and vaccinated. Parker is a little strong on leash, so he could benefit from some leash training. Otherwise he is a happy and healthy guy who just loves everyone he meets.
“The wonderful and always supportive folks at Carter Mario Injury Lawyers have offered to pay his adoption fee, so come and meet him today!”
“Misleading shelter code”
Messaged the reader, to us: “Bad enough that this is full of misleading shelter code, but a personal injury law firm is paying the adoption fee!!!!!!”
Already at work on an update about recent dog attack verdicts and settlements, ANIMALS 24-7 took immediate notice.
“Big headed gentle giant,” in what the reader called “shelter code,” tends to mean these days that, “We know this dog is a pit bull, but we prefer not to say so.”
“Super friendly” tends to mean “This dog will run up to strangers and jump on them, given half a chance.”
“Goofy” tends to mean “unpredictable.”
“Loves to run and play” tends to mean “chases anything that moves, and grips and shakes whatever can be caught.”
“A little strong on leash” tends to mean “This dog will drag a 200-pound man a block or more in pursuit of a cat, a child, another dog, a mail carrier, or just trash on the wind.”
“Just loves everyone he meets” tends to mean, “Will lick you to death,” among the most often used phrases used to describe the behavior of pit bulls before they mauled or killed someone.
“Just a guess”
Visiting the West Haven Animal Shelter page on Facebook to verify the posting, ANIMALS 24-7 saw that someone named Claudia Bakis had already asked, “What is the mix?”
“Mastiff with possible pit,” admitted the West Haven Animal Shelter.
Responded someone else, Mari Russano, “I don’t see any mastiff in this dog (?)”
“It is just a guess, due to his size and his jowls,” said the West Haven Animal Shelter.
Johnson-line pit bull
The West Haven Animal Shelter had posted three photos of Parker, plus a video clip.
ANIMALS 24-7 did not see much mastiff in Parker, either––if any.
Parker looks from here to be a Johnson-line pit bull just coming into maturity. The Johnson line was originally developed by John D. Johnson in the 1940s-1970s, & is now often called an “American bulldog,” “American bully,” or “Ambull.”
What is a Johnson-line pit bull?
Wrote Johnson of his dogs, to Stodghill’s Animal Research Magazine in 1980, “The American Bulldog is the same dog that was developed in England in the 12th century by the meat packers, to catch large bulls to kill for meat… Then they started bull baiting with them, and they then were called ‘Bull Baiting Dogs.’ Later, they were registered as ‘English Bulldogs.’ They also were ‘pit’ fought over there [ England ], against each other, badgers, lions, and anything that would fight. They were brought over here [America] in the 17th century…In the 18th century, England outlawed all types of fighting, and they were no longer needed in their present form, so they bred them down in size…We kept our bulldogs in the [original] large state, and I have developed them even larger.”
“Dog owners have a responsibility”
The Carter Mario Injury Lawyers web site advertises response to dog attacks as a company specialty.
“Dog owners have a responsibility to keep their pets restrained or under control, especially when their dogs are around other people,” the Carter Mario Injury Lawyers web site says.
“This responsibility also means that owners can be held accountable if their dogs injure another person. If you or your child has been bitten or injured by a dog, call Carter Mario Injury Lawyers. Our Connecticut dog bite injury lawyers are dedicated to holding dog owners accountable, and we’ll do everything we can to help you.”
“We’ve handled many dog bite cases in the past,” assures the Carter Mario Injury Lawyers web site, “and we know how to get you the compensation you need to cover the costs of your medical bills and other injury-related expenses.”
The Carter Mario Injury Lawyers web site describes a case in which the firm won $378,000 for a 51-year-old man who “was working as a letter carrier when he was chased by unrestrained Rottweilers, causing him to fall and tear the rotator cuff of his left shoulder and injure his right knee.”
Connecticut Law Tribune writer Christian Nolan reported in October 2015 that Carter Mario Injury Lawyers had won a $250,000 settlement for Joan Scarveles, a woman in her seventies, who “was bitten on the hand by her neighbor’s dog,” described as a boxer mix, a common euphemism for pit bull, “and required surgery to repair torn skin.”
Did Carter Mario Injury Lawyers just not know what sort of dog they had offered to pay the adoption fees for?
ANIMALS 24-7 endeavored to find out.
Calling Carter Mario
We contacted Carter Mario Injury Lawyers through both an emailed contact form at their web site and an instant “chat” feature. We also left a telephone message. Two different Carter Mario Injury Lawyers response team members promptly replied, but neither had answers.
While awaiting further response, ANIMALS 24-7 learned that Carter Mario Injury Lawyers has for several years had a co-promotional relationship with the West Haven Animal Shelter.
Carter Mario has promoted pits before
A Carter Mario Injury Lawyers page posted on January 31, 2016 includes a video showing several other pit bulls offered for adoption, one of whom––also an apparent Johnson type––failed twice in adoptive homes before being placed “successfully” as of that date. No update appears to be available.
A Carter Mario Injury Lawyers page dated February 28, 2013, headlined “Connecticut Lawmakers Ban Breed Specific Legislation,” offered that “it is important to ensure there is legislation to hold owners responsible for the actions of their animals.”
Nothing about laws promoting prevention
But that Carter Mario Injury Lawyers page said nothing about the importance of ensuring that there is legislation to prevent fatal and disfiguring dog attacks from occurring in the first place.
As the Carter Mario Injury Lawyers web page about dog bites states, “Dog owners have a responsibility to keep their pets restrained or under control, especially when their dogs are around other people.”
Yet many dog attacks, especially involving “bully” and other “power” breeds, occur when the owners believe their dogs are restrained or under control, only to find that they underestimated the strength and fury of the dog when in attack mode.
Preventing most of the fatal and disfiguring attacks that occur even when the dogs are on leashes or are believed to be safely behind fences can be done by prohibiting possession of pit bulls, just 5.6% of the dogs in the U.S. but responsible for more than 58% of dog attack fatalities and 76% of disfigurements; or by prohibiting possession of all “bully” breeds, 11% of dogs in the U.S. but responsible for 77% of fatalities and 88% of disfigurements.
The damage such dogs do can also be mitigated to some extent by requiring that purchasers and adopters of dogs must show proof of having adequate liability insurance, and of owning or renting facilities capable of keeping dogs securely, before being allowed to take possession of a dog or dogs.
Public relations firm math
Instead of addressing preventive measures, “Connecticut Lawmakers Ban Breed Specific Legislation” cited a study by three employees of organizations that advocate against breed-specific legislation, which argued in 2010 that 100,000 dogs would have to be banned to prevent one hospitalization.
The ANIMALS 24-7 log of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks, maintained since 1982, indicates that the 4.4 million pit bulls in the U.S. at present, 5.6% of the dog population, kill people at the rate of approximately one human death per 125,000 pits per year, and disfigure people at the rate of about one disfigurement per 770 pits per year.
Carter Mario responds
ANIMALS 24-7 suggested in the original edition of this article, posted on March 13, 2019, that “Perhaps Carter Mario Injury Lawyers will have more to say about pushing pit bulls tomorrow.”
We did not actually hear anything from Carter Mario Injury Lawyers until March 25, 2019.
Then we received a letter dated March 18, 2019 from Carter Mario Injury Lawyers practice group leader Carla Minniefield.
Minniefield alleged that four illustrations incorporating images from Carter Mario Injury Lawyers web pages, in a variety of journalistic and satirical contexts, were in violation of the law firm’s trademarks.
Trademarks & parody
ANIMALS 24-7 believes all four of these illustrations fall within “fair use” guidelines, summarized as follows by intellectual law property specialist Jason H. Rosenblum Brooklyn on the web page https://jhrlegal.com/is-satire-or-mimicking-a-trademark-protected-under-fair-use-attorney-advertising:
For trademark purposes, “[a] `parody’ is defined as a simple form of entertainment conveyed by juxtaposing the irreverent representation of the trademark with the idealized image created by the mark’s owner … A parody must convey two simultaneous — and contradictory — messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Doughney, 263 F.3d 359, 366 (4th Cir. 2001). This second message must not only differentiate the alleged parody from the original but must also communicate some articulable element of satire, ridicule, joking, or amusement. Thus, “[a] parody relies upon a difference from the original mark, presumably a humorous difference, in order to produce its desired effect.” Jordache Enterprises, Inc. v. Hogg Wyld, Ltd., 828 F.2d 1482, 1486 (10th Cir.1987) (finding the use of “Lardashe” jeans for larger women to be a successful and permissible parody of “Jordache” jeans).
Nonetheless, in the interest of good faith conflict resolution, we have replaced all of the images in question.
Valdez-Zontek v. Eastmont School District?
Minniefield further alleged that “Your work contains libelous statements we believe constitute defamation in the state of Washington as set forth in Valdez-Zontek v. Eastmont School District.”
Minniefield did not specify what Carter Mario Injury Lawyers believes those statements are.
Most references to Carter Mario Injury Lawyers here, either direct or indirect, are either quotations in complete context from the Carter Mario Injury Lawyers web site, or summaries of facts which Carter Mario Injury Lawyers have caused to become public knowledge, for example by sponsoring adoptions from the West Haven Animal Shelter and by winning personal injury lawsuits.
“Did Carter Mario Injury Lawyers just not know what sort of dog they had offered to pay the adoption fees for?” is a question still unanswered.
Clearly qualified statements
Our perspectives on what type of dog Parker and other dogs promoted for adoption by the West Haven Animal Shelter are, the rhetoric used by the West Haven Animal Shelter to describe Parker and the other dogs, and the risks associated with rehoming those dogs, are all clearly qualified statements of our own opinion, informed by our own research and observation.
Valdez-Zontek v. Eastmont School District, referenced by Minniefield, is a 2010 case in which a former school district employee contended successfully that she had been harmed by circulation of unfounded rumors about her personal conduct, during a dispute pertaining to wage claims. Should readers wish to investigate for themselves what possible reference Valdez-Zontek v. Eastmont School District may have to reporting about the public conduct of a law firm, the Washington Court of Appeals decision is here: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-court-of-appeals/1497098.html.
Besides the cases handled by Carter Mario Injury Lawyers, Connecticut has seen many other six-figure settlements in dog attack cases since 2013, and at least three dog attack fatalities.
Two victims were killed by others’ pit bulls running amok; one by a dog, her own, whose breed has not been disclosed by law enforcement.
Georgia Supreme Court reverses decision for victim
On to the update about recent dog attack liability cases that ANIMALS 24-7 was working on when the Facebook posting promoting Parker was forwarded to our attention.
The Georgia Supreme Court on March 12, 2019 unanimously reversed a Georgia Court of Appeals verdict which had favored pit bull attack victim Maria Matta-Troncoso, and instead removed landlord Gregory Tyner from liability for damages done by two pit bulls belonging to tenants Michael and Lakeisha Thornton.
The Georgia Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice Sarah Warren, “reinstates Henry County State Court Judge Jason Harper’s summary judgment in the landlord’s favor,” explained Katheryn Tucker of Law News.
“Prevents expansion of liability”
Tyner’s attorney, Kimberly Mowbray of the Kendall Law Group in Douglasville, Gerogia, told Tucker that “The ruling prevents the expansion of out-of-possession landowners’ liability regarding animals.”
Since tenants often lack adequate liability coverage to compensate dog attack victims, and typically have no significant assets, the Georgia Supreme Court opinion also severely inhibits the ability of victims of attacks by dogs belonging to renters to collect any recompense at all.
Matta-Troncoso was attacked on October 24, 2013 by two pit bulls belonging to Tyner’s tenants Michael and Lakeisha Thornton, while walking her own dogs two blocks away from the Thornton’s rented home.
“Pick up your dog!”
“The Thorntons’ pit bulls broke loose and ran toward her,” summarized Tucker. “One of her dogs fled. She picked up the other one protectively,” as pit bull owners often advise owners of smaller dogs to do when rushed by a pit bull.
“The pit bulls knocked Matta-Troncoso to the ground and attacked,” Tucker continued. “A neighbor immediately called police, who arrived within minutes. The officers tried kicking the pit bulls off her, but that didn’t work. To stop the attack, they had to shoot and kill the pit bulls.”
Helicoptered to the Atlanta Medical Center, Matta-Troncoso “was hospitalized for seven days and underwent several surgeries but was left with a disfigured face,” plus medical bills of more than $140,000, Judge Warren recognized.
The court record showed that a gate latch at the rented house was broken, held shut with a leash and a concrete block. But Warren nonetheless put the blame for the attacks on the dogs’ behavior, not on the landlord.
Georgia jury award for victim
Sherry Whitfield, of DeKalb County, Georgia, meanwhile was awarded $218,868 in late February 2019, after a four-day jury trial, for injuries suffered when attacked in her own driveway by her next-door neighbor’s Labrador/pit bull mix.
“The 80-pound dog, who was loose, bit her on her left leg and knocked her down, according to a statement from her attorney, David Zagoria,” reported J.D. Capelouto of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Whitfield, who was 50 at the time, suffered two deep bite wounds and had to undergo scar revision surgery. Her medical bills totaled more than $20,000, Zagoria said.”
Dog owner Victoria Hernandez “argued that she had not carelessly managed the dog and pointed out that the victim had no permanent injuries,” continued Capelouto. “Liberty Mutual insurance company offered Whitfield $40,000 prior to the trial, Zagoria said.”
Wisconsin victim is left uncompensated because dog had attacked before
While Hernandez was insured, few jurisdictions require dog owners to be insured in any manner, often leaving victims of dog attacks by uninsured owners with high medical bills through no fault of their own.
The Wisconsin 2nd District Court of Appeals underscored the vulnerability of dog attack victims with a May 18, 2018 ruling that the insurance firm Integrity Mutual has no obligation to compensate Kathryn Baumann-Mader for injuries suffered in a 2015 attack by a pit bull of documented bite history.
Summarized Associated Press, “Shawn Lievense’s bulldog, Tank, attacked Sara Hanson and Baumann-Mader in Kenosha County. Police tried to shock Tank with a stun gun, but instead shocked Baumann-Mader. Officers then opened fire on Tank, but hit Baumann-Mader in the foot. She spent a week in the hospital.
“A judge found Integrity Mutual’s policy covered only one dog attack and Tank had already bitten someone months earlier. The 2nd District Court of Appeals agreed, adding that Integrity Mutual also does not have to cover injuries caused by police, since they arose from Tank’s uncovered attack.”