Northwest Cable News reported earlier this month on a tragic Washington dog attack story. “A week after she was attacked by pit bulls, a 65-year-old woman has died at a local hospital,” according to the cable news channel. The victim’s husband told the station he believes “the injuries from the attack triggered an underlying heart condition.”
According to NWCN, citing a report from Seattle TV station KING, the woman was attacked by two pit bulls while taking a walk near her home. The channel reports that bystanders helped pull the dogs off her and called for medical care. The animals were later destroyed.
Though the Pierce County, Washington Medical Examiner lists the cause of the woman’s death as “heart attack, injuries to the body and dog bites” the woman’s husband may be correct in believing that the dog attack was the key event triggering her subsequent heart attack. In my opinion, as a Washington and Oregon wrongful death attorney, legal questions surrounding this incident are likely to turn on the professional opinions of the doctors who treated the victim.
If medical doctors agree that the dog attack injuries weakened this elderly woman to the extent that they became a substantial factor in her heart attack then the owners of the dogs may be subject to a wrongful death suit under Washington law.
All that said, the essential, indeed the most basic, fact here remains the responsibility of the dog owners. NWCN reports that the owners of the pit bulls involved in this incident face possible criminal charges. Whether they are held responsible in criminal or civil court, however, what is essential is that they and other pet owners always remember that owning an animal not only entails a responsibility for the animal’s welfare but a broader responsibility to the community at large. Pets need to be kept under control. This is especially true for pets with a reputation for violent attacks on people, such as pit bulls.
KING Seattle via NWCN: Husband: Dog Attack Caused Wife’s Heart to Fail