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Dog Attack Lawsuits May Cost Singer Chris Brown $71 Million – Could LAAS Have Any Liability?

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH - A vicious dog attack in which two housekeepers were victims occurred at the Tarzana, CA, home of Rapper Chris Brown on December 12, 2020, and the first claim for medical expenses was $1-million; however, the total of lawsuits now filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court is $71 million for physical damages, loss of income and mental/emotional suffering by the two women.

(CityWatchLA first reported on this in “Dog Attack at Singer-Rapper Chris Brown’s Home Raises Questions”)

City records confirm that the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a call on 12/12/2020 at Chris Brown’s home, 19602 Citrus Ridge Drive, Tarzana, arriving at 5:13 p.m. and leaving at 5:19 to transport a woman mauled by a dog to Northridge Hospital. (Photos show horrific dog bite wounds which tore the flesh from her face and right arm.)

 

The victim was reportedly Brown's housekeeper (photo above), who “while performing her duties was severely bitten on the right arm and left side of her face by a dog within the dwelling.” “VICTIM TRANSPORTED TO NORTHRIDGE ER HOSPITAL for SX (surgery),” according to Los Angeles County Public Health Department records.

BREED OF DOG DETERMINED

However, the dog involved in this savage and apparently unprovoked attack was later determined to be a Caucasian Ovcharka, also named “Hades,” which had already been removed from the location before LA Police Department arrived.

A male Caucasian Shepherd (Ovcharka) weighs up to 190 pounds and is considered one of the world's most aggressive breeds. According to Dog Breed Info, “Unless properly socialized and trained, the Caucasian Shepherd may exhibit ferocious and unmanageable tendencies. It is very brave, alert, strong and handy. It does not accept people it does not know ….”

But the information took some strange twists. The owner of the dog is reported in the Public Health report as “Emil Lewis,” who claims his address is 19602 Citrus Ridge Drive, Tarzana—the single-family home owned by Chris Brown and where Brown purportedly resides also. (See details here.)

And Chris Brown reportedly made the phone call for medical response after the attack, according to the housekeeper (Los Angeles Animal Services East Valley Shelter. Case Number A20-017539.”

See: Dog in Brutal Attack at Singer-Rapper Chris Brown's Home Identified.

LA ANIMAL SERVICES CORRECTS "DOG OWNER" STATEMENT

An email from an LAAS officer on December 21 responded to the inquiry by Public Health, as follows:

We faxed over a bite report on December 12 but later were advised the dog was removed on the same day of the bite to an unknown location.

I was able to clarify information for the bite victim on December 15 but was still trying to pin down the location of the dog. I was able to confirm today that the dog was taken to Humboldt county but apparently escaped the home. It was taken to and subsequently impounded by Humboldt County Animal Shelter on December 18.

On January 8, at 4:01 PM, the Veterinarian wrote again to Public Health:

I found out that this dog was not impounded at East Valley but was taken to Humboldt County shelter and was euthanized there. The dog was a Caucasian Shepherd, intact male. If you have further questions, you can contact the OIC [officer in charge]. The activity number was A20-017539, which has pertinent details.

Complete information on this case is contained in the articles below:

Dog Attack at Singer-Rapper Chris Brown’s Home Raises Questions

Dog in Brutal Attack at Singer-Rapper Chris Brown's Home Identified

Dog-Bite Victim Describes Vicious Attack at Singer-Rapper Chris Brown’s Home

Dog Attack Lawsuit Filed Against Singer-Rapper Chris Brown, Will LA Animal Services be Added?

Then, on January 18, 2021, CityWatchLA broke the news that Los Angeles Animal Services was further investigating the dog attack which occurred on December 12, 2020, at the home of popular singer-rapper Chris Brown in Tarzana, CA.

Now there were additional questions about whether LA Animal Services’ then-GM Brenda Barnette released the dog that attacked after it had been declared “Dangerous” in Los Angeles by her own department.

Notes state that the dog had been identified as a Caucasian Orvchaka, aka Caucasian Shepherd. (See photo below for reference.) This is a very powerful and aggressive giant dog used to kill wolves, bears, and other animals while guarding sheep and other livestock.

DOG PICKED UP WITH MUZZLE

 

Because of the report that the dog was moved to Humboldt County, Los Angeles Animal Services contacted Humboldt County Sheriff’s Animal Shelter and was advised that on December 18, an animal control officer picked up a very large, unneutered male dog as a stray at 3828 Thomas Road, Miranda.

The Humboldt animal control officer noted that the dog was “aggressive and found with a plastic muzzle attached to collar.” And another Humboldt Animal Shelter employee wrote on Dec. 23, “He was OK when he arrived but after being placed in the kennel, he has been nothing but aggressive.”

MICROCHIP PROVIDES CONCLUSIVE ID

The shelter scanned the dog and found a microchip, which was traced to a veterinarian in Toluca Lake (a Valley neighborhood near Tarzana.) The veterinarian identified the dog as “Hades,” approximately one-year-old male, unneutered, and registered to the Citrus Ridge Road, Tarzana, home of Chris Brown, where the attack occurred.

LOS ANGELES ANIMAL SERVICES HAD DECLARED DOG ‘DANGEROUS’

The report by a Humboldt County ACO supervisor continues: “I was able to reach the owner as provided by the vet.” Then on 12/21/20, another note was added: “Spoke to owner, who says the dog is declared dangerous in L.A. He is going to call L.A [Animal Services] and get back to us. Would not answer if he wanted dog back or not.”

The next note about the dog said he was placed in “Quarantine for bite on 12th, very serious injuries. L.A. Animal Services officer said this is a high-profile case, as the other owner is a celebrity and the injuries were extensive, 80 stitches in face and arms.”

On 12/22, the LA Animal Services investigating officer at East Valley Animal Care Center responded to Humboldt Animal Shelter regarding the attack: “Attached are the photos of the bite victim's injuries. They were provided to us by [her] husband.”

DID GM BRENDA BARNETTE RELEASE A DECLARED ‘DANGEROUS DOG’?

A dog cannot be declared “dangerous” in the City of Los Angeles unless a hearing has been held (SEC. 53.34.4.  DANGEROUS ANIMAL – PROCEDURES.)

And Section (b) reads: Dangerous Animal – Declared. The Department, after a hearing, may declare any dog or other animal to be a dangerous animal whenever it has bitten, attacked or caused injury to any human being or other animal.

But the General Manager has to agree to the “dangerous” designation by the hearing officer, based upon the issues and varying factors involved. It is the GM who actually issues the decision, not the hearing officer.

If there is an appeal, the General Manager also has the discretion to allow a dangerous dog to be moved and maintained outside of the City. Barnette—who wanted her stats to show Los Angeles as a “No Kill” city—often agreed to release a declared-dangerous dog to a location outside the city of Los Angeles or to a “rescue.”

Although we don't know how this dangerous dog got to Chris Brown’s home, it was not outside the City’s jurisdiction.

HOW DID THESE TWO ‘CO-OWNERS’ GET THIS DANGEROUS DOG?

It appears Emil Lewis and perhaps the “celebrity co-owner” he cited were aware this dog was previously declared “dangerous.” (The dog had a muzzle attached to its collar when impounded by Humboldt County.) The Tarzana address where Lewis claimed partial residency is within the Los Angeles city limits, but the dog apparently was not licensed.

Why was the dog so quickly removed from the city before officials arrived at the attack scene?

This also brings up the issue of whether all involved will be held accountable (including the City of LA). Or will there be an attempt for this incident to be buried because this victim’s life and suffering does not matter?

LAWSUITS FILED AGAINST CHRIS BROWN

On April 13, 2021, a lawsuit for “Other Personal Injury/Property Damage/Wrongful Death (General Jurisdiction)” was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court (Case No. 21STCV13947), but not on behalf of the actual dog-bite victim, Maria Soledad Avila, who was brutally attacked “when she went out the door into the backyard to empty a vacuum cleaner,” but by her sister, Patricia Avila, who was present at the time helping with the cleaning of Brown’s home in Tarzana, CA, and claimed she was traumatized by the injuries to her sister.

At that time, no specific dollar amount was indicated.

The complaint states that, “Although she had previously heard dogs barking in a confined area on the property, she did not know the dog was loose in the yard that day nor had she previously seen him.” (The dog that attacked Maria Avila was later identified as a 1-1/2-year-old Caucasian Ovcharka Shepherd, named “Hades.”)

Patricia claims that—although not physically attacked—she was also a victim because, “ever since the incident, she has suffered severe emotional distress ... post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, weight loss, loss of appetite ... severe anxiety, depression, fear, extreme sadness for her sister, and panic attacks.”

In the legal action against Brown, Patricia states that she now unable to work because she “is reluctant to leave her home and cannot stop re-living the pain that she experienced as she watched her sister suffer through that horrendous attack that day,” and that she is undergoing treatment for her emotional distress.

Patricia Avila alleges that Chris Brown’s acts and/or omissions were a substantial factor in causing this harm to her and she has suffered economic damages and past, present, and future loss of wages and medical expenses.

Patricia describes how the two women were hired by Chris Brown in November 2020 and were paid $600 per day to clean the residence twice a week. According to an earlier article, this was only the second time they had worked at Chris Brown’s home.

The lawsuit states that, after Maria went through the door and entered the backyard, Patricia suddenly heard a dog violently barking and growling and the dog proceeded “to viciously attack Maria.” At that time Patricia was working inside the house. She recalls that the screams caused her to immediately run outside, “where she found her sister covered in blood while she was screaming and crying for help.” She also said that “Mr. Brown proceeded to call 911.”

POTENTIAL ECONOMIC DAMAGE

Patricia’s lawsuit is based (in part) on California’s strict-liability law, which states that, “(t)he owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

She also asserts that Chris Brown “had a legal duty of care to protect his invitees and workers that were on his property from unreasonable risk of harm,” which included Patricia and her sister, Maria.

The lawsuit continues that the attack occurred as a result of Chris Brown failing to supervise, control and prevent the dangerous condition existing on his property and failing to adequately warn of the dangerous condition [dog] on the property, which “has proximately caused” Patricia to suffer emotional distress. This has resulted in “her inability to work and suffering severe emotional distress symptoms, which include insomnia, anxiety, depression, fear, sadness for her sister, grief, horror, panic attacks, loss of sleep, and a reluctance to leave her home.” Patricia Avila is represented by Attorney Michael C. Murphy, who is requesting a jury trial, according to the report.

These investigations and responses were provided in a series of articles (listed above), which provide a complete understanding of this tragic, and important, case:

WILL L.A. ANIMAL SERVICES BE HELD LIABLE?

However, in regard to the filing of this lawsuit against Chris Brown, which includes the usual Does 1 – 50, meaning other defendants could be named, we can’t help but wonder if the City of Los Angeles/LA Animal Services will be included due to the claims that this dog had already been declared “dangerous” in the City of Los Angeles, but was apparently allowed to remain in the city, and that is where this incident occurred.

The procedure which is outlined by GM Brenda Barnette at each Commission hearing for a “Dangerous Animal,” in this case a dog, is to either allow the owner to place it at an address outside the City limits or surrender it to LA Animal Services (which may release it to a “rescue” or euthanize it.)

Also, there is a requirement that any dog declared “dangerous” will be neutered. The dog that attacked, named “Hades” was not neutered and was not kept outside the City of L.A. So, did LA Animal Services violate its own rules?

Brown Claims Housekeeper Can’t Sue Over This Dog Attack

Chris Brown’s attorney said they want the Los Angeles judge to dismiss the lawsuit by the housekeeper who claims his dog violently attacked her sister, because “she has no grounds to sure for emotional distress unless she ‘saw’ the incident herself.” Although she immediately ran outside after hearing the barking and screams and saw her sister “covered in blood,” Brown’s lead attorney wrote, she needed to have “contemporaneously perceived” the actual mauling to win a case in court.

“Since plaintiff was not present and did not see the dog allegedly attack and injure her sister, she has no claim,” he contended, and her only option is workers’ compensation. He said, “perception even a few moments later will not count.”

But, another attorney—who stated he cannot give a legal opinion—pointed out that this is not always true and that, if the witness were the first to observe such an attack had occurred on a sister and believed she was dying, and if she was the only person there prior to the arrival of an ambulance or other first-responders capable of providing resuscitation or medical care, this could provide a basis for her claim.

Also, he stated that the rule of only workers’ compensation being available if an incident occurs which injures an employee is only true when the owner has maintained a safe working environment. If that is not the case, then that argument falls.

$71-MILLION FILED IN LAWSUITS

Various sources have reported a demand was filed against Chris Brown and his corporation for $1 million for a default judgment for emotional distress, another suit filed for $50M and an additional request for $20M, and here’s how it appears to breakdown:

The basis for the first claim by Patricia Avila is “a $1 million default judgment, for the emotional distress she suffered, with “$1k for medical expenses, $24k in loss of earnings, and an unknown amount for future loss of earnings.”

Then there is a lawsuit for $50M – According to court documents, the woman suing Brown [Maria Avila]—using the pseudonym “Jane Doe”—believes Brown owes her $20 million in pain and suffering, another $20 million for her emotional distress and $10 million for her loss of consortium.

According to court documents obtained by RadarOnline.com,, “Jane Doe” has indicated she also believes Brown owes her another $20 million in damages for the disfigurement and the physical impairment the dog allegedly caused.

Judge in Chris Brown Dog-Attack Lawsuits Approves Mental Exam for Ex-Housekeeper’s Sister

On July 25, 2023, Radar-on-line reported that the Los Angeles judge presiding over the $71 million lawsuits against Chris Brown has approved the entertainer’s request that one of his ex-housekeeper, Patricia Avila, will take a mental examination regarding her claim of severe emotional distress. This procedure will include a clinical interview within 30 days after the decision.

The other housekeeper (Doe) said in the suit that Brown’s dog attacked her on December 12, 2020, and “savagely” bit her face, arms and body. She said the animal ripped out large chunks of her skin. She said as she was laying on the floor bleeding while attempting to cover her face and body, she watched as Brown approached her talking on his cell phone. She claimed to have heard him tell his security guards to remove the animal from the property. She said she feared her life was over.

In response, Brown blamed the incident on the housekeeper, saying she had mistreated Hades and caused the injuries. (Although it was reported earlier that this was only the second time these housekeepers had been at the home.) Brown argued Doe’s injuries were caused by her own misconduct in that she “voluntarily teased, abused, and mistreated the dog and thereby provoked the attack.”

His lawyer wrote, “[Doe] invited the injuries now complained of and assumed the risk of them with full knowledge of the magnitude of that risk, in that she knew her foregoing conduct might cause the dog to attack her, and seriously injure her, both of which events are alleged to have occurred.” The singer denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

THERE ARE NO “WINNERS” IN THIS CASE

This represents two widely diverse positions – victims who claim they did nothing wrong and were just working, without knowledge the dog had gotten loose from an allegedly secure enclosure until he attacked.

On the other side, the dog owner is claiming that these two housekeepers taunted the dog and caused it to attack, Brown argued Doe’s injuries were caused by her own misconduct in that she “voluntarily teased, abused, and mistreated the dog and thereby provoked the attack.” He added that they “invited the injuries”—knowing the full risk.”

But, no matter how this is settled, it brings up the issue of the seriousness of responsibility for dog ownership—both financially and morally, because injuries are often forever and the costs of one dog attack can be far too great on both sides.

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)

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