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VICTORIA, TX — A jury awarded $5 million on Monday, March 26 for a 2012 pit bull attack that led to the death of 4-year-old Kylar Johnson. The damages awarded for the fatal mauling are out of the norm for dog bite cases in Texas where compensation in dog attack cases averages around $30,000.
Carlson Law Firm Attorney L. Todd Kelly filed the suit on behalf of Kylar and his parents in 2014, two years from the exact date the child was found dead in the unfenced backyard of a neighbor in Victoria, Texas.
“This was a gruesome death of an innocent four-year-old boy that tugged at my heart,” Kelly said. “This could have happened to any one of us and I could not let this atrocity go unanswered.”
The four-year-old boy was playing in the front yard of his family’s home when he wandered away from his father on the evening of March 25, 2012. Kylar’s father called the police to report the missing child. Police searched through the night, but it wasn’t until the next morning that Manuel “Manny” Garcia, the neighbor, found the boy’s body at the feet of one of his pit bulls in his backyard around 10:30 a.m. Kylar was still clutching his toy Buzz Lightyear.
Investigators at the scene said the boy was mauled by one of the 10 pit bulls on Garcia’s property. Local news outlets in 2012 reported Garcia’s dogs, all tethered on 10-foot chains, were considered pets, used for home protection and wild boar hunting.
“The dog owner was a dog breeder who trained his dogs to hunt. Additionally, he kept them chained just out of reach of one another to make them mean,” Kelly said.
During the trial, Kelly wanted the jury to feel the pain and fear his client must have felt during the mauling. He set up a Buzz Lightyear toy in front of the jury, similar to the one found next to Kylar’s body, and read a poem for the jury to get the full picture of Kylar’s last moments. Kelly hopes Kylar’s story will serve as a warning to negligent dog owners.
“The Carlson Law Firm is proud to have been chosen to help this family find closure after this tragedy. While no verdict can ever undo what they have been through, we are glad that the verdict will tell this family that their son’s life mattered. The jury was asked to be the voice for this child whose last words were not heard. They did just that.” Kelly said
The Johnson-Skoruppa family is now able to focus on moving forward.
“We extend our sincere gratitude to the jury, judge, and our attorneys at The Carlson Law Firm. We claim this victory in Kylar’s name and his grandmother Barbara Skoruppa-Johnson’s name. This seems to have been a never-ending story since its beginning on March 25, 2012,” the family said. “The unanimous verdict handed down by the jury finding the dog’s owner, Manuel “Manny” Garcia, responsible for Gross Negligence, is vindication for our family in a small way. We have to say we feel there has been some divine intervention because after all the legal delays for the past years, this wrongful death suit went to trial on the exact anniversary date, March 26, 2012, the very day Kylar was discovered deceased 6 years ago. Our fervent hope is now, thanks to a fantastic jury and their deliberation, our family can take a deep breath, move forward to the future with great memories of our very special little country boy, Kylar. We no longer want to dwell on the event itself, instead, we want to concentrate on all the happy, irreplaceable memories of Kylar’s very brief time on earth. Thank you so very much to family, friends, members of the community that have shown their unwavering love and support for Cole Johnson and our family throughout this tragedy over the years.”
L Todd Kelly is an award-winning, Board-Certified partner in the Austin office of The Carlson Law Firm. With 12 locations across the state, The Carlson Law Firm is a Texas-based personal injury law firm committed to providing exceptional legal services to our communities. We handle a variety of personal injury cases, including auto accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle injuries and workplace injuries, as well as medical malpractice, defective products, nursing home neglect, offshore injuries, wrongful death and much more.
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April 3, 2018