2010-01-08 / Top Stories

2001 Dog Pack Assault Case Going To Trail

On December 26, 2001, Lev Liber - man, of Arvene, a then 74-year-old Russian immigrant, was taking an early morning walk on the boardwalk when he was stalked and attacked by a pack of dogs near Beach 69 Street. The dogs dragged him off the boardwalk onto the adjacent lot and began consuming his flesh.

Liberman’s life was apparently saved when the dog pack’s second victim, Marlene Fils-Aime, 51, of Far Rock - away, passed by on the boardwalk and drew the dogs’ attention away from Liberman.

The dogs then attacked Fils-Aime. She was knocked down and was being viciously bitten when two Good Samar - itans arrived on the scene and chased the dogs away. The attack left Liber - man totally blind in both eyes, deaf in one ear and unable to care for himself. Liberman was severely disfigured, in - cluding the loss of both outer ears and most of his scalp and hair. Amazingly, he is still alive today.

Fils-Aime sustained multiple severe bite wounds to her arms and legs which required skin grafting. She also sustained severe permanent muscle and nerve injuries to her legs.

Liberman and Fils-Aime brought sep - arate lawsuits against the City of New York, which is the owner of the lots ad - jacent to the boardwalk where the dog pack formed, lived, bred and hunted.

Now, more than eight years later, Fils-Amie’s case against New York City is going to trial in Queens Supreme Court.

Lieberman’s case was reportedly settled prior to trial.

Robert Danzi, the attorney for Fils- Amie and her husband (in a dirivitive case) argues that the city is responsible for failing to maintain the large stretch of vacant lots which make up the Arverne Urban Renewal Area.

The vast tracts of overgrown grassland created the perfect environment for stray dogs, released by owners who could not or would not continue to care for them, to meet and form into ultradangerous “packs,” according to animal experts.

In 2006, an appellate court ruled that the two Rockaway residents could sue the City of New York.

The ruling by the New York State Appellate Division, Second Depart ment reverses a Queens Supreme Court justice’s dismissal of the cases in 2004.

In ruling that Liberman and Fils- Aime can proceed to trial with their case against the city, the Appellate Court expressly rejected the city’s defense that it was immune from the suit because “animal control” is a governmental activity.

In rejecting that defense the court ruled that the city has the same duty to maintain property it owns as does a private citizen. The court also found that the victims had shown enough evidence of the city’s failure to maintain the lots in question and a connection between that failure and the attacks to justify sending the case to trial before a jury.

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