What should have been a simple malicious prosecution case (arising from a dog bite/rabid dog investigation) was transformed into a legal fiasco in Powhatan County, VA after a jury awarded $3,000 to the plainitff, along with over $300,000 in lawyer fees, according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
While helping a neighbor set up a new doghouse, Eileen McAfee was bitten by her neighbor’s dog after giving it a dog treat. McAfee was treated at a local hospital and it is reported that she exhibited concern about the possibility of the dog being euthanized in order to conduct a rabies test.
Christine Boczar, the Powhatan County Deputy Sheriff, later arrested McAfee for illegally withholding information about a rabid animal, but the case was subsequently dismissed at trial after the prosecutors presented their case.
McAfee then filed a suit claiming malicious prosecution on the part of Deputy Boczar, in which McAfee won $2,943 after a three-day trial. However, when it came to lawyer fees, McAfee asked for $365,027 with an additional $10,305.51 in costs.
Deputy Boczar, who’s case was being handled by the Virginia Division of Risk Management, refused to settle the case even after the verdict was handed out, leading to a continued battle that increased litigation costs significantly. McAfee’s total legal fees came out to $322,340.50, with the possibility of filing a “fee on fee” petition.
The Virginia Division of Risk Management’s refusal to settle a minor rabid dog malicious prosecution case of around $3,000 and subsequently rack up lawyers’ fees of over $300,000, for which Virginia taxpayers are liable, is irresponsible and borders the absurd. They need to take a good, hard look at how they handle future cases with an eye on the tax dollars they are seemingly willing to wash away into oblivion.