Palatine accused of negligence over dog attack in Elmwood Park that mirrors May attack
Attorneys for an Elmwood Park woman say negligence by the village of Palatine is to blame for an attack by two dogs that were kicked out of the Northwest suburb -- but not euthanized -- following a similar mauling about three months earlier.
Attorneys Michael Schostok and Brian Salvi plan to file a lawsuit by the end of the week on behalf of 48-year-old Aneta Heinz, who was walking her 4-year-old retriever mix Aug. 20 when two dogs escaped a backyard and ran across the street toward them. Heinz and her dog were knocked to the ground and injured, her lawyers say. The dog's owner already has been cited.
The Chicago attorneys already represent Palatine residents Amanda Ingram and Chase Braun, who also were injured by Meleina Teodoro's Akita mix and an American pit bull mix on May 24. Ingram's dog died and Braun's dog was injured in the attack on Washington Street in Palatine.
It was only during a Sept. 2 municipal court hearing in Elmwood Park -- where Schostok was to represent a different dog bite case victim -- when he heard the judge call Teodoro's name on his docket.
"And right then and there I knew that what we had feared was coming to fruition. And to have it less than (three) months later is disbelieving, but also at the same time it makes sense and I'm not surprised," Schostok said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference at his downtown Chicago law firm.
In a statement sent during the news conference, Palatine officials said they sought the most stringent outcome that was supported by the law and local ordinances at the time of the dog bites in that suburb, including criminal charges, which remain pending.
"As to the administrative citations, to suggest that the dogs should have been euthanized would have been to ignore the law," the statement reads. "The owner complied with the conditions of the court order and the dogs completed the required training that they were ordered to undergo."
The attorneys were joined by the two dog bite victims from Palatine and Steve Heinz, husband of the Elmwood Park attack victim. They all called on Cook County officials to euthanize Teodoro's dogs and blamed Palatine officials for not pushing for that outcome after the May attack.
"It was pretty devastating to hear that," Ingram said of the August mauling near Wellington Avenue and 78th Court in Elmwood Park. "And I said in the news before that it was going to happen again. I said that they weren't addressing the problem. They were just moving the problem.
"To know that that happened again and someone else had to go through it, it brings everything back, and it's a really difficult thing to cope with," she continued, fighting back tears. "But the right thing is going to be done now, and they're going to be held accountable."
As part of a June 30 plea deal, Teodoro admitted to eight Palatine ordinance violations involving dogs biting people and biting other animals, while village prosecutors dropped five other charges. The 22-year-old dog owner agreed to remove the dogs from the village, enroll them in a training program within 60 days, provide proof when they complete the program and pay $850 in fines and court costs.
The woman walking the dogs, Julia Paulino, 32, of Rolling Meadows, was charged with reckless conduct for failing to secure the dogs with a proper collar.
The attorneys say they will allege in their suit that Palatine officials had the opportunity to euthanize the dogs but didn't, and then failed to check where the dogs went and what safety precautions were being taken after they left town. They plan to seek monetary damages from the village.
"To suggest that their hands were tied by the law that they couldn't have euthanized these dogs, that's wholly false," Salvi said. "To throw up the excuse that you just need to protect the village of Palatine and not anybody else in the surrounding areas, that's negligence. That's willful and wanton conduct, if you ask me, and that's going to be the basis of our legal action going forward against the village."
In addition to Palatine and Teodoro, another defendant who will be listed in the suit is a Teodoro family member who owns the property where the dogs are staying now, the attorneys say.
Teodoro, who didn't attend the September court hearing in Elmwood Park, was found guilty of local citations, and police there handed over their investigation to the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control. That agency is now conducting its own probe of the case before possible referral to the state's attorney.
The attorneys are hopeful that separate legal process will conclude with the dogs being put down.