Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Couple appeals ruling on pit bull liability

By Margaret Baker, Sun Herald

A Moss Point couple is appealing a Circuit Court ruling that did not hold the owner of a rental property where two pit bulls lived financially liable for an attack at a Dantzler Street home in April 2007.
The state Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments today at the Thad Cochran Center at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
The Rev. Randall “Randy” Kimbrough and his wife, Ruth Kimbrough, filed suit in 2008 against Delores Keenum. Keenum is the owner of a rental property at 5019 Weems Street, where Keenum’s daughter, Margaret Younts, kept two pit bull terriers.
Younts also was named in the suit, though attorneys said litigation against her is on hold pending the outcome of the appeal regarding Keenum.
The dogs attacked the Kimbroughs outside their parsonage next to the Moss Point Presbyterian Church on Dantzler Street the morning of April 15, 2007.
Ruth Kimbrough was hospitalized for six days, underwent reconstructive surgery and had a metal plate and 12 screws put in her left forearm. She also underwent physical rehabilitation.
The Rev. Kimbrough was not hospitalized but suffered a bite wound to his right leg. The couple sued for unspecified actual, compensatory and punitive damages from Keenum and the trust of her late husband, Will Ray Keenum, but Circuit Court Judge Dale Harkey issued a summary judgment in favor of Keenum in December 2009.
“It is common knowledge that pit bulldogs are especially aggressive and ferocious animals, and that harboring such animals is not without difficulties,” Harkey said in his ruling.
“However, our state law ... has yet to extend liability for personal injuries caused by dangerous animals beyond its owner, and imposes liabilities on lessors only for injuries or damages.”
Pat Buchanan, the Kimbroughs’ lawyer, said he hopes the higher court will return the suit to a lower court for a jury to rule.
“We’re appealing because we disagree with the court’s ruling,” Buchanan said.
“I think it’s an important case. The Kimbroughs did not do anything wrong. They were attacked.”
Keenum’s attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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