A damages-only trial for a suit involving a dog attack is underway in Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge’s court after the case’s previous jury award was vacated by the Fifth District Appellate Court over speculative testimony.
The trial began Monday.
Plaintiff Steven Campbell is represented by Charles Armbruster and Michael Blotevogel of Armbruster Dripps Winterscheidt & Blotevogel LLC in Maryville.
Defendant Kevin Autenrieb is represented by Michael Murphy of Freeark Harvey and Mendillo in Belleville.
Campbell filed the two-count complaint on Nov. 13, 2013, against Autenrieb. He alleges he was in the scope of his employment with the United Parcel Service, or UPS, and was attempting to make a delivery to the defendant’s residence on July 18, 2012. Campbell claims Autenrieb’s dog, named Callie, attempted to attack him without provocation, causing Campbell to take defensive measures to keep from being bitten.
As a result, Campbell claims he suffered an injury to his back.
Campbell alleges Autenrieb failed to monitor his dog, failed to become “aware of the frequency of the dog’s unmanageable behavior,” failed to restrain the dog, and owned, harbored, or kept a dog that he knew to be vicious.
Campbell denied liability in his answer to the complaint, arguing that the plaintiff’s own negligence was the sole proximate cause of any alleged injuries.
The case went to trial in January 2017 in Mudge’s court. Jurors awarded Campbell $16,000. He was awarded $6,000 for loss of a normal life, $6,000 for pain and suffering, and $4,000 for loss of earnings.
Campbell had been represented by Armbruster and Roy Dripps, who asked the jury to award the plaintiff $1.6 million for his alleged injuries.
During the first trial, Campbell testified that he delivered packages to the defendant’s home, located on Raymond Road in Edwardsville, on a regular basis and knew of the dog’s presence. He alleged that at the time of the incident, he did not see or hear Callie when he pulled up to the defendant’s home, so he proceeded to get out of the truck to leave the package in the garage.
However, Campbell said that when he went to set the package down, he heard some shuffling and turned toward it.
He testified that he saw Callie “bolting” right at him with her mouth open. Campbell claimed he injured his back while trying to prevent Callie from biting him. Campbell said Mary Autenrieb, the defendant’s wife, heard the commotion and came outside to yell at the dog.
She apologized and offered Campbell some water and ibuprofen, which he denied.
Campbell testified that had he known of Callie’s presence, he would not have gotten out of the truck. He had been trained to honk his horn and have the homeowner come get the package when an aggressive dog is present.
Shortly after the incident, Campbell was taken to Midwest Occupational Medicine, where he received an injection and some medication.
Mary Autenrieb testified at the first trial that Callie is a 26-pound border collie-terrier mix and was rescued by the family in May 2011. Callie was in obedience training at the time of the incident. She acknowledged that Callie had a problem with barking, but said she was not aggressive.
Kevin Autenrieb testified at the first trial that Callie is his daughter’s dog and would have arrived at the house after he had left for the day. He called Callie’s excessive barking a nuisance but said he would not classify her as aggressive.
Following the trial, UPS filed a motion to enforce a workers’ compensation lien on Feb. 10, 2017. UPS had intervened as a party in the case on Jan. 5, 2017 to protect its workers’ compensation lien.
According to the motion, UPS made workers’ compensation benefit payments to Campbell totaling $168,886.30.
UPS is represented by Todd Stanton and Jason McKnight of Stanton Law Office in St. Louis.
On Feb. 10, 2017, Campbell filed a motion for a new trial on damages, arguing that “this court committed a clear error of law in admitting speculative medical testimony regarding other potential causes of plaintiff’s injuries and pain and suffering, and said error was prejudicial, as the only issue the jurors had to consider was plaintiff’s damages; and the jury’s finding that plaintiff’s damages were limited to $16,000 was against the weight of the evidence, with or without the erroneously admitted evidence.”
Mudge denied the motion for a new trial on March 22, 2017. Campbell appealed.
On Sept. 26, 2018, the Fifth District Appellate Court reversed Mudge’s ruling and remanded the case for a new trial on damages only.
“In sum, we conclude the trial court erred in admitting unsupported evidence on cross-examination regarding potential alternative causes of plaintiff’s injuries,” Justice Richard Goldenhersh wrote in the opinion.
The appellate court held that the defense counsel elicited testimony regarding potential causation that never occurred.
“Here, the phantom causes of injury suggested by defense counsel do not make it less likely that defendant’s dog caused plaintiff’s injuries, as these phantom causes never occurred,” Goldenhersh wrote.
“The record shows defense counsel failed to provide any medical testimony or other competent evidence establishing a causal link between the phantom causes of injuries suggested and plaintiff’s present injuries complained of as a result of the dog incident,” he added.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 13-L-1904