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Alcohol complicates dog bite case

It’s dog days 2013, take two.

A woman suing for a dog bite cannot avoid her statement that she was heavily intoxicated and couldn’t remember much about the incident. And if the case goes to trial, she may face expert testimony that the smell of alcohol is a stimulant to dogs.

Claudia Hamrock sued Jeffery Dunham and Denise Dunham, whose male Akita dog bit Hamrock on the arm and face. Hamrock told an animal control officer that “she was very intoxicated and did not remember a lot” and “she was not sure if she had tripped over the dog or not.”

Chesapeake Circuit Judge Randall D. Smith denied Hamrock’s motion to exclude her statement to the animal control officer, which she had contradicted during a deposition.

Smith said Hamrock’s admission to the officer provided a foundation to allow the statement, and it is relevant to Hamrock’s credibility in describing the incident.

The judge will keep an ear cocked for expert testimony on the power of alcohol fumes to arouse the canine element, according to his opinion in Hamrock v. Dunham. Smith said he would defer any ruling until he had heard a specific proffer.
-Deborah Elkins

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