April 23, 2014

Elyria
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Victim of dog attack suing owner

ELYRIA — A Brunswick Hills man is suing the owner of a dog that attacked him and, a few days later, a deputy county dog warden in July 2006.
The dog, a large Rottweiler-bull mastiff mix, came through the screen door of Lester France’s Columbia Township home in both instances and attacked the two men, sending both to the hospital with bite wounds, county Dog Warden Jack Szlempa Sr said.
Szlempa said when he visited the dog — which has since been euthanized — while it was in quarantine after the attacks, he wasn’t surprised it had gone after the two men.
“I saw this dog; it was mean as anything,” he said.
F.M. Apicella, the attorney representing James and Pamela Otten in the lawsuit filed Monday in county Common Pleas Court, said the dog caused serious arm and chest wounds to James Otten that still pain him.
“The dog came rushing through the door and knocked him down ,and my guy’s pretty big,” he said. “The dog grabbed him by the arm and was shaking him around like a rag doll.”
Szlempa said the attack on Deputy Dog Warden Genaro Ramos was virtually identical, causing injuries to Ramos’ left wrist, right hand and left abdomen. The injuries to Ramos’ wrist could have been even worse had his metal wristwatch not provided some protection, Szelmpa said.
After Ramos was attacked, France pulled the dog off of him and drove him to Southwest General Hospital in Ramos’ county-issued truck, Szlempa said.
The incident was one of the primary examples used by county Commissioner Lori Kokoski earlier this year when she pushed to arm the county’s dog wardens with Tasers, which they now carry.
Szelmpa said if France hadn’t been home when Ramos stopped by to tell him the dog had to be placed in quarantine for the previous attack, the outcome could have been a lot worse.
Ramos wasn’t armed at the time and had only his hands to defend himself with, Szlempa said.
“You’re not in a defense posture because you don’t expect something coming through the screen door,” he said.
France, whom Szlempa said expressed remorse to him after the attacks, said Monday he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit and had no comment.
No charges were ever filed against France for the attacks, according to court records.
The lawsuit, which claims Otten suffered about $115,000 in medical expenses and other losses from the attack, is asking for more than $50,000 in damages.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.