Burien resident Jeannette Cunningham (pictured above in 2010, left, and after surgery in 2012, right) was recently awarded a $500,000 settlement for a Pit Bull attack she suffered over five years ago (read our previous coverage here). Cunningham at the time told The B-Town Blog that she had “lost her smile” when she was attacked by the dog while crossing a Burien street on July 24, 2010. Her face was disfigured in the attack, with the majority of the damage done to her mouth and chin area, caused by the dog jumping up and biting her face. A fundraiser in Sept. 2010 netted over $5,500 to help her. Her lawyer Christopher M. Davis said on his company’s website that:

“Investigation determined that the dog had escaped the fenced yard it was confined to through a gate that had been left open while the pit bull’s owners, Juan and Aleicia Garcia, were not at their home.”
The dog was re-located to relatives in Yakima, and there was some concern about why the city didn’t euthanize it. Here’s a video Q13 News produced about the case: Here’s a poster that went up around town at the time, accusing the City of Burien’s Animal Control – then lead by Dr. Leslie Kasper – of negligence in releasing the dog that attacked her: Attorney Davis also wrote:
“It was eventually uncovered that this particular dog had a history of aggressive behavior and had even bit two separate individuals not long before the attack that severely altered Cunningham’s life.” Attorneys representing the insurance company for the Garcias’ homeowner’s liability insurance policy tried to argue that our client was somehow at fault for the injuries she suffered in the pit bull attack. However, they ultimately acknowledged their own liability for our client’s injuries and we were able to successfully negotiate a $500,000 settlement ahead of a scheduled jury trial.
“The final settlement covered the extensive medical bills and surgical procedures that our client had endured in the years following the attack, as well as a loss of consortium claim that was filed by her husband,” Davis added.]]>

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

31 replies on “Burien resident awarded $500,000 settlement for 2010 Pit Bull attack”

  1. Hurray! Every pit bull owner should be prepared for this. Pit bulls will attack and kill regardless of ownership training or rehabilitation.

    1. Mary, it’s very unfortunate that you are promoting a misunderstanding and fear of pit bulls, as a breed. As B town Viking says, take some time to get up-dated in your understanding of pit bulls.

      1. Look to the “no reason to lie experts” in dog aggression: the unprovoked, prolonged, even far from home, even directed at submitting opposite sex dogs, to the death dog aggression, ALL USA AND UK DOG FIGHTERS choose only pits.
        They should know, they created them and still create them to attack and kill for no reason, other then mutant instinct and awareness of a victim.

        1. Those are not the only pit bulls that have been bred in the US for many years. There are many, many breeders. Many are not doing it for any other reason than to sell the puppies. some sadly are trying to breed fighting dogs and some, believe it or not, are breeding family pets, because they have lived with happy friendly pits and know they can be so. There is more to know about this breed than you choose to believe.

    2. Oh, Mary is EDUCATED all right. I am too! Often shelter workers have a perverse affinity for the most dangerous dogs out there, so they SHUT UP when the killer dogs KILL smaller dogs at the shelter, etc. and they have NO EMPATHY for the VICTIMS of KILLER DOGS, canine or human. SOME have later been connected to dog fighting, which is at an all time HIGH, but of course NO ONE is admitting to EVER doing it. Meanwhile, UNLIMITED BREEDING and CONSTANT rescue are providing an UNLIMITED supply of dogs to fighters, and then we have LOTS of $$$ for Pit Bull LOBBYS who will NEVER admit to dog fighting connections, but are PAYING lawmakers to KEEP the DOGS coming….oh WE KNOW, alright. Mary knows, and every day more are learning.

    3. I think your statement should read: 1. Every owner should prevent … 2. Not true. My question to you is, what is your direct experience as opposed to what you read, watch & hear in the news?

  2. Really Mary. That’s probably the most uneducated statement I’ve read in years. Why don’t you spend some time and go to a shelter and talk to the staff members and ask their opinion on that topic.

    1. Really, B Town? You want Mary to talk to a shelter staff member about pit bulls? They’re drowning in unwanted pits and will say anything to get them shoveled out.

      1. And David the reason their “drowning in dogs is because of breed restrictions for animals it’s not that there unwanted.

    2. Shelters nationwide are getting called out for covering up attacks and aggressive behavior in pitbulls that they approve for adoption. And then there are the temperament tested pitbulls like the neutered one that attacked a killed a life long Maryland dog lover while he was taking down the Christimas tree this year. Why go to a biased source. Why don’t you ask yourself why the same man that worked for big tobacco now works for pitbulls advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation? Also ask yourself why not one penny, seriously not one solid penny was spent promoting pitbulls as pets until dog fighting was made illegal. After it was made illegal, the use of television, t.v. celebs, and entire organizations including political action committees were formed spending millions of dollars to over populate a dog that was once rarely owned. And who does this benefit? What does it hide? It makes finding dog fighters as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. In some areas dog fighting is much more prevalent than in was 30 years ago. Drug dealers do not talk about victims that O.D. Pitbull pushers are not going to talk about bad dogs or victims. Its all about money and you are one of the pawns. Ask yourself why shark attacks which are much more rare than pitbull attacks are covered on the news, but pitbull attacks including fatalities are rarely covered in the national news media. Those promoting pitbulls on t.v. know from the taco bell promo that caused rampant overbreeding of Chihuahuas that any media time spent on a particular dog breed increases overbreeding. Pitbulls are already spayed and neutered the least and choking shelters nationwide due to rampant overbreeding. So why would they want to promote more overbreeding? Who benefits? Certainly not pitbulls.

      1. Good post! In addition, raiding a dogfight ring is lose – lose. The pit mongers raise a ruckus, so the shelters have to hold these game-insane dogs for months and more, all the while killing other dogs left and right.

  3. Animals will bite and attack humans. Lions do it in Africa. Bears do it in Alaska. Sharks do it In Florida. Pit bulls attack and maul people, not for food, like the others mentioned above, but out of an inbred need to attack and kill!! Why does anyone want a “pet” that has that potential. What makes it “cool” to have this breed. People that own this breed simply because they “can” are just selfish and don’t care if you are afraid of their dog. I don’t buy the argument that its not the breeds fault but the owners. These dogs were bred to FIGHT. There are lots of dogs. Why do you NEED a Pit bull? Dogs will and do bite….Pit bull attacks will put you in the emergency room. They go for the kill and don’t stop. Don’t be selfish people. You just want a Pit bull cuz you think you’re a bad ass. QUICK, What’s the reason that some animals are not allowed as pets? Cuz they hurt people and are dangerous.

    1. My husband and I own 2 rescue pit bulls, and you’re right, we rescued them because we thought we were bad asses and we don’t care if people are afraid of our dogs. NOT! We are a dog lovers, and THAT is the reason we rescued them. When I first met my husband he owned a 9 year old female pit bull, and I was scared to death of her. Why? I believed everything I heard or read in the media about pit bulls. If all you ever hear about are pit bulls attacking people, biting and killing them for no reason, and you had no reason to believe otherwise, why wouldn’t you be scared??? I had never had any personal experience with a pit bull, and they were talked about so much in the media, I never wanted to experience them! Well, once got to know Chica I learned that pit bulls are so loving, and so loyal, and so sweet. Chica never once tried to bite me, attack me, kill me, or maul me – or anyone else for that matter. I quickly turned from hating pit bulls, to wanting to adopt and love on every one I see. It is, and never will be the dogs fault. Humans have let these poor dogs down for years. The dog is being a dog and doing what dogs do. It is a terrible shame that this woman was injured, and she very much deserved the money that she got. This particular dog was let down by it’s humans because it should never had a second chance to bite, let alone a 3rd. When a dog bite for the first time, it does not necessarily mean that it will bite a second time. Think about it this way, if I am in your personal space bothering you, you have a voice to tell me to back the hell off, a dog doesn’t. There are certain cues it gives to let you know it is uncomfortable, and then when you keep bothering him, he might bite. This particular dog should have been put down, but that is not the same for every situation. If this had been a black lab, would you all still be up in arms?

      1. Interesting that you say I mean and nasty, clearly you have no idea who I am 🙂 just what people have told you about me. Trust me when I tell you that mean and nasty is not who I am, but who I can become when pushed to my limit – as anybody can be. For example, your comment about me was “mean and nasty”. Have a good day! 🙂

          1. John, if that is your real name, sorry that you had such a terrible time at our place. We pride ourselves on great customer service and a friendly environment…as is proven by the over 3000 likes on our Facebook page. I know that I can come across a little abrasive sometimes, but it is usually when I feel I am being attacked. I understand it is no excuse, and I am learning. I would say that the most important lesson I have learned thus far is – you can’t please all the people all the time.

      2. You are blind. DOGS are dogs. DOGS were wolves and bred for specific characteristics. German shepherds and Dobermans were bred to protect and defend(and they do bite).
        Your loving DOG was bred and encouraged to be a fighting dog. To kill its opponent.
        It is benevolent of you to adopt a rescue dog. But you chose a dog with a history. An image. Why?
        It’s the image you get to project.
        How about having some registered sex offenders move in?
        How about some meth addicts?
        Ex- convicts?
        Not that benevolent? Or is the risk to you, your family and the community too great?
        Pit bulls are dogs that have killed people. Why didn’t you rescue a cat? They’re loving.

        1. I did rescue a cat, and they all sleep together. And you are right, they were bred to be fighting dogs, but I rescued them when they were 8 weeks old – so they have no history. I am not blind, I am not close minded either. I have no image that I am trying to project, I don’t out a lot of stock in what strangers think about me. We have trained our dogs to be gentle, and disciplined. We do not take them to dog parks, we do not let them run amok off leash, and we have a very secure fence with a double locked gate o the can’t get out. I rescued them from a horrific life that no person with any kind of heart would want for a dog. You know what is funny? One of our pits, the youngest – Racer, is afraid of her own shadow. A few weeks ago when we had the wind storm, the wind knocked down a planter and it was rolling across the deck making an awful racket. She was hiding under the bed! Our dogs won’t attack unprovoked, and I also will never put them in the position to have to prove that.

          1. So you are not the problem…Right?
            What about all the idiots that own pits that don’t treat them like you?
            Those dogs(owners) ARE the problem. They will continue to be a problem….right?
            Why do we allow any one to own a something dangerous without education or certification?
            Same with guns.
            People get these things without thinking of the consequences……to themselves or others.

          2. I completely agree with you. There should be training and certification required to own a pit bull, that arguement could be made for any dog really. What we need to remember is that it is NOT the dog’s fault. People get drunk and drive their car, it is not the car’s fault if it gets in an accident. The same with pit bulls, they just want a family and to be loved, like any other dog. The people who raise and bred them for fighting are definitely the problem. I agree whole heartedly that the dog that bit this woman should have been put down.

  4. After an attack like that, regardless of what breed of dog it is, it should have been put down.
    I know if it was one my dogs that did something like that to somebody, I would shoot it myself, and anybody out there that knows me and know how much I love dogs, knows that I would not hesitate to put it down.
    Done it before and I would do it again.
    One of the best dogs I have ever owned nipped a kid once because the kid pulled his tail.
    I didnt know what happened until I went down to talk to the kids parents and was told by his dad what happened and even though his dad said it really wasnt the dogs fault. Doesnt matter I said, If he bit once, chances are he would do it again.

  5. You guys that are rabid about pit bulls as a breed, need to cool off and step back for the long view on the drug/dog fighting culture and their dogs of choice. Remember when Dobies were the breed of choice? They too were often badly and sadly bred and sold as instinctive killers. Take a look at the record of dogs that have a bad history. They include German shepherds, shelties, terriers, Scotties and even the much hailed labs. You will see that it often follows a recent history of being a popular dog, that gets bred for one characteristic or another. some times size, sometimes appearance and sometimes just because there is a market. These histories are just that, they do not predict that all dogs of those breeds will be malevolent.
    If you like dogs at all, go to some dog shows and observe various breeds and their owners. Volunteer at some animal shelters to help with the daily tasks and give one on one time with the animals who will love you for it! To characterize all animal shelter workers, as some of you have, is shameful. We all should thank them for hanging in there with the huge job of taking care of all the over population of unwanted pets. Your time and energy would be so much better spent on advocating spay and neutering of pets.

    1. Sandy, you are spot on. I used to breed Dobermans for show, not because they were dangerous and feared, but rather because they are beautiful animals and extremely intelligent. After 15 years of breeding and showing Dobies our last Sire had passed away and we went 5 years without a dog, because we were heartbroken and needed a break from the responsibility. Our kids kept begging for another dog and we finally agreed to look for another companion.
      My best friend had rescued a Pit from a shelter and we loved him so much, we decided on getting one too. We were also initially under the impression that Pits were these vicious killers and no matter how you brought them up, they would have the propensity to kill. As you remember, Dobermans had that same stigma for many years.
      We searched many breeders, observed the temperament of the Dam and Sire of many different breeders before we selected our puppy. We researched our pet and made an educated decision before we brought one home. I could write pages of how many different ways our now 5 year old Pit is the most amazing dog we ever owned. We took him everywhere and still to this day, bring him everywhere, including to senior centers, shopping malls, schools, and constantly socialize him. He is a “service dog.”
      He has raised several litters of kittens, he cuddles and sleeps with our cat, he plays with a teacup poodle, and he is a docile, gentle, loving soul. I have never seen a hint of aggression from him. We raised him to be this way. We also recognize he is an animal and as a responsible pet owner, we watch his body language, we never leave him unattended and through years of constant interaction with him, we can tell if something is bothering him and avert any problems before they begin. Dogs like to work. If you are getting a dog, you need to interact with them, train them, and connect with them. There is a lot more responsibility to being a dog owner than feeding, bathing, and throwing a ball once in a while. They need to be taught how to behave and know their boundaries and as owners we need to be responsible for making them behave.

  6. Get a cat. While they won’t defend you in a pinch, they won’t go out of their way to bite or scratch you either. They simply can’t be bothered with the staff.

  7. The American Staffordshire Terrier also known as Amstaff is a medium-sized, short-coated American dog breed. It is one of several breeds commonly known as pit bulls.
    The cross of Bulldog and Terrier is called by several names, including Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Pit Bull or Half & Half.
    According to the American Kennel Club “The Am Staff is a people-oriented dog that thrives when he is made part of the family and given a job to do. Although friendly, this breed is loyal to his own family.”
    I’m glad Jeannette was awarded her settlement . . .

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