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December 17, 2000 - Pit Bull's Nip Nets Man $1 Million

A three-man, three-woman jury in Brooklyn awarded $1 million ($500,000 for past pain and suffering and $500,000 for future pain and suffering) to Gabriel Febbraio, a retired firefighter who was bitten by a pit bull. Febbraio sustained urological and psychological injuries when the hefty canine bit him on the groin, removing the end of his penis. State law holds the person in custody of a dog with a history of bites responsible if the animal bites again.

Febbraio told the jury in Kings County Supreme Court he had just left his mother's two-family home in Bensonhurst in February 1997 to go jogging, when he realized he forgot his gloves.

As he headed back toward the house, he encountered Peter Borchelt, an author who holds a doctorate in animal behavior, and the dog on the street. When Febbraio asked him if the dog was friendly, Borchelt assured him it was. But when the 45-year-old ex-fireman took several more steps, the dog broke free and attacked him.

Borchelt's attorney Oscar Michelen said that "Two inches lower and it might have been a different story. The place of the bite almost mandated the result." Borchelt, who charges owners $300 an hour to treat aggressive dogs, testified that the animal wasn't vicious and that he was training it for its owner. But under cross-examination, he conceded he was aware of two prior attacks by the dog.

After a two-day trial, the jury ruled for Febbraio and against Borchelt. A claim against the dog's owner, Evelyn Smith, was dismissed. Michelen called Thursday's verdict "excessive and unfortunate because Borchelt has helped tens of thousands of dogs and their owners." He said his client was going to appeal.

In all dog bite cases it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the incident in question, and to enable physicians or other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injuries. If you or a loved one is a victim of a dog bite, call now at or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A SIMPLE CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.

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