Deliberations begin in Granite City dog jumping suit

Amelia Flood May 6, 2010, 10:57am

A Madison County jury is deciding whether a Granite City dog owner is liable for injuries suffered by her neighbor.

Plaintiff Mildred Aldridge sued Donna Eberlin nearly four years ago, claiming that Eberlin's dog jumped its fence, chased Aldridge's sister, Daisy Welch, and that the chase caused Aldridge to fall and suffer injuries and the aggravation of underlying medical conditions including Multiple Sclerosis.

Both plaintiff's attorney Michael Bilbrey and defense counsel Victor Avellino made their final arguments to jurors Thursday morning beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Aldridge claims to have suffered a compression fracture of her lower spine as a result of the incident as well.

The incident occurred Nov. 6, 2005.

Jurors began their deliberations just before noon Thursday.

The trial opened Monday.

Testimony in the defense case wrapped up Wednesday afternoon by about 3:30 p.m.

In his closing, Bilbrey pointed to his client's medical condition during several hospital visits following the Nov. 6, 2005 incident as the reason for inconsistent medical histories.

During trial, Aldridge's recollections and those taken down in her medical file did not always match.

Further complicating her case, Aldridge visited the emergency room Nov. 8, 2005 after she fell in her bathroom. At the time, she did not mention the dog incident. She testified that during the Nov. 8 visit, she was more concerned about a possible broken hip.

Bilbrey told jurors not to be distracted by the defense's emphasis on details.

"It's stuff on the wall," Bilbrey said. "They want to bog you down in the details. If there were no dog attack, there would be no case."

He also dismissed defense expert testimony about his client's condition and pre-existing osteoporosis as the cause of the fracture.
He pointed to his own expert's testimony that the Nov. 6 fall was the most likely cause of it instead.

Bilbrey would go on to demonstrate that type of fall using a chair and case of files.

Bilbrey asked jurors to award his client just over $27,000 for her medical bills. In addition to the medical bills, he asked for $25,000 for her pain, $15,000 for the aggravation of her pre-existing condition, and $10,000 for the infliction of emotional distress.

He asked jurors to decide their own amount for the loss of a normal life.

Avellino countered in his case that he had stressed details of the incident because the jury had to consider what was probable, not just what was possible.

"Was Mildred Aldridge injured by the animal? That is what you have to decide," Avellino asked jurors

He again cited the inconsistent medical histories that claim Aldridge fell against a table, a cabinet, in the bathroom or in the bathtub.

He cited inconsistent testimony by Aldridge and Welch about the fall and what role Welch played in it.

Avellino stressed that Aldridge did not inform doctors of the dog incident during the Nov. 8 emergency room visit.

The defense attorney also cited his experts' testimony that it was impossible to determine when the fracture was caused and that compression fractures were common in patients with Aldridge's conditions.

Earlier Thursday, Eberlin's third party complaint against Welch was stricken. Aldridge had filed a motion to strike it the same day.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis presides.

In addition to Bilbrey, Aldridge is represented by J.R. Stever.

Welch has represented herself while the third party complaint was pending.

The case is Madison case number 06-L-860.

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