Obtaining justice against a variety of defendants

Seven-figure settlement against a family trust that owned rental properties because an 8-year-old girl was attacked by pit bulls belonging to tenants of one of the properties. The defense was that the trust did not know that the pit bulls were there or were vicious, but liability was established by proving that the manager of the properties had a prior friendship with the tenants and was aware that their dogs were vicious. 

Seven-figure settlement for a two-year-old boy who was attacked by a neighbor's dog when his mom set him down to take groceries out of her car.

Six-figure settlement for a young girl bitten in the face against a business and business owner that harbored the dog on its property in a one-bite state, despite the fact that there was no history of biting other people. 

Six-figure settlement against a real estate development company and its property management company when a pit bull went through a nonfunctional gate and killed a homeless woman. 

In a case against a movie studio, a six-figure settlement for an art director who was attacked by studio guard dogs while on the set.

In a case against an animal control department, a six-figure settlement after a young woman was killed by pit bulls previously declared to be dangerous but given back to their owner.

Six-figure settlement against a school district that permitted wild dogs to live on its vacant property, after the mauling of a young pedestrian.

Six-figure settlement against a dog owner whose dog bit off the nose of a 40-year-old woman at a Christmas dinner party.

Six-figure settlement against a retail store whose employee brought her dog to work after it attacked a young boy on the street. 

Six-figure settlement against dog owner whose dog scalped a young boy who was playing in his grandparents' driveway.

Six-figure settlement against pitbull owner who tied his dog to a fence, after which the dog bit off the cheeks of a young boy.

Six-figure settlement against two people who allowed a pit bull out of a house they were organizing, after which the dog bit and severely fractured the arm of a young mother.

Five-figure settlement against a police department on behalf of a tourist who was invited into a police car and then bitten on the hand by a police dog.

Five-figure settlement against a construction company for emotional distress suffered by a woman who previously had been attacked by a pair of Rottweilers that lived next door, after workers allowed the dogs to escape and chase her into her home. As part of the agreement, the neighbors also had to replace that dog with a golden retriever.

Five-figure settlement on behalf of a pet sitter, against owners of dog she was sitting for. Normally a pet sitter is not allowed to sue for a dog bite. 

Expanding the law to achieve justice

Many of the cases are noteworthy because of the unusual court rulings that Mr. Phillips obtained, including:

Winning a lawsuit for dog owner negligence in a state where the Supreme Court previously ruled that there was no cause of action for dog owner negligence.

Winning a lawsuit for diminishing the value of a house because the neighbors' dogs were vicious, even though they had never bitten the plaintiff.

Winning a lawsuit by a professional pet sitter who was bitten by a dog she was hired to take care of, in a state that bars canine professionals from suing because of dog bites, under the doctrine of "assumption of the risk." Suit was based on Phillips' contention that the pet sitter was the employee of the dog owners as well as the agency that set up the engagement. Because she was an employee, Phillips contended she was entitled to workers compensation; because neither the homeowners nor the agency had workers compensation insurance, the pet sitter could sue them as uninsured employers. In such a lawsuit, assumption of the risk was not a defense, and therefore the pet sitter won.

Winning a lawsuit in a one-bite state against a business and its owner which harbored a stray dog that attacked a young girl, but had never attacked another person. Phillips' investigation revealed that the dog was "sweet" to neighbors when it begged for food, and that the business did not provide it with water, veterinary treatment, training or socialization. Using all these facts, including the dog's "sweetness," Phillips prevailed on negligence grounds, contending that the dog was in survival mode at all times, which made it ferocioius when on the property of the business where it found minimal shelter and food. 

Winning a lawsuit against a real estate investment company and its property management company based on a nonfunctional gate that allowed a pit bull to attack a woman. They defended on the ground that they were not liable because they didn't know a gate was there, they didn't own the dog, they didn't know the dog was vicious, they had evicted the guy who owned the dog a week before the accident and thought he and his dog were gone (they were actually squatting in a shed in the back yard), and they owned the property for only 6 months before it happened. On behalf of the victim's heirs, Phillips established that the defendants were negligent because they had a duty to inspect the property when they bought it and when they evicted the guy, at both of those times the gate was not functional, they knew that the guy they evicted had several dogs, after they evicted him they should have seen him living in the shed and they did in fact see one of the dogs in the back yard, and therefore they had a legal duty to make sure the fence around the property was not porous. The gate theory had never before been used to win a dog bite case. 

Types of injuries handled

  • Death
  • Disfigurement of the face
  • Disfigurement of the body
  • Blindness caused by disgorgement of eye
  • Amputation of arm or leg
  • Genital amputation
  • Scalping
  • Disability
  • Facial scars and painful bodily scars, not disfiguring
  • Injuries to infants, toddlers, youngsters, teenagers, adults and senior citizens
  • Loss of value of residence because of a neighbor's vicious dogs

Notes about comparing cases and lawyers

The purpose of mentioning an attorney's "greatest cases" is to provide information about the lawyer's experience. Without doubt, experience is the greatest teacher; it makes an attorney's knowledge and reputation grow, his advice sounder, and his strategies more trustworthy and efficient. There are two things, however, that a consumer must keep in mind:

  • A lawyer's successes in other cases does not mean your case will turn out as well, because every case is different.
  • Your choice of an attorney should be based on a number of factors, including experience with your exact type of case, whether he is insured, whether he has been the subject of disciplinary actions, and whether he fully answers your questions in language you can understand.

You should avoid attorneys who send someone to your hospital room to solicit your business, tell you what your case is worth, tell you they know the judge and will get preferential treatment, or promise a settlement in a specific amount of time. Such conduct is misleading and the lawyers that do such things usually are desperate for business because they cannot get it the honest, ethical way -- by achieving prominence or even a record of success in your type of case.