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Woman sues dog owners for $1.5M Resident claims 'Rocky' was vicious


The perpetrator was Rocky, a 5-year-old German shepherd, the lawsuit says.

The victim was Julia E. Eckhart, who claims she was minding her own business while she mowed a neighbor's lawn two Augusts ago.

And the hoped-for payoff: $1.5 million, for alleged negligence.

Call it the case of a potentially expensive dog bite. This latest dog-bites-person civil suit, filed in Carroll Circuit Court last week, seeks damages against Rocky's owners because the dog allegedly took a bite out of Mrs. Eckhart's leg.

"Without warning, or provocation, the dog Rocky did viciously attack and bite [Mrs. Eckhart], causing painful, lasting and scarring pain," says the three-count suit against Robert and Virginia Gesell and their son Michael, 30, the dog's owner.

The suit says that Mrs. Eckhart, of the 3400 block of Millie Way in Manchester, was mowing a neighbor's lawn adjacent to the Gesells' home Aug. 28, 1989. Rocky was with Mrs. Gesell, apparently not on a leash.

"Rocky is known to have a vicious, ferocious and dangerous disposition," the suit says, and has "a propensity to attack and bite human beings."

Rocky, the suit says, charged at Mrs. Eckhart, who "was caused to incur, is incurring and will continue to incur expenses for medical care" because of the dog's bite.

The suit did not specify the nature of the plaintiff's injuries, the type of treatment she has received or how much money she and her husband have spent on her medical care.

Elwood E. Swam, the Hampstead attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Larry and Julia Eckhart, declined to comment on it. The Gesells declined to comment.

The Eckharts claim that the Gesells "owed a duty to the general public to control and restrain their dog" and that they "breached their duty by allowing the dog . . . to leave their property and cause personal injury to" Mrs. Eckhart.

The suit claims, too, that since the Gesells should have known about Rocky's disposition, they are responsible for Mrs. Eckhart's injuries simply by the "keeping of such a dog, thus exposing the community to the known dangerous and vicious propensity of Rocky."

The Eckharts are seeking $500,000 compensatory damages and million punitive damages.

In a similar case filed July 24, plaintiff John H. Harless Jr. is seeking $500,000 against a Finksburg couple because their German shepherd allegedly bit him in the face.

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