Mauling victims mate sues
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The partner of a woman fatally mauled by two dogs in January filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday against the two lawyers who were caretakers for the animals.
Sharon Smith and her attorneys said that in addition to requiring Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller to accept responsibility for Diane Whipple’s death, they also want the state courts to recognize Smith and Whipple as a couple.
The suit was filed as a grand jury continued to hear evidence that could lead to criminal charges against Noel and Knoller. The grand jury began its examination of the case last Friday.
The suit alleges that Noel and Knoller were negligent in their handling of the two Presa-Canario mastiffs that attacked and killed Whipple in the hallway of her apartment building.
The suit also names apartment building owner Rudolph G. Koppl, alleging he ”should have known that Knoller and Noel were keeping the dogs on the premises and that the dogs were dangerous.”
The suit was filed on behalf of Smith by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in partnership with San Francisco attorneys Michael Cardoza and Robert Lazo.
”Diane was my partner and my best friend,” a tearful Smith said at a news conference following the filing. ”This death didn’t have to happen and I want to do everything possible to make sure the people responsible are held responsible.”
Smith said she is named as the beneficiary of Whipple’s will, which Whipple wrote in 1997.
”It is clear that Sharon was a spouse and is now, due to the deplorable recklessness of the defendants, a widow,” said Kate Kendall, executive director of the NCLR.
”The issue of whether someone in Sharon’s position can bring a wrongful death suit has never been addressed by a California court. We are confident that the answer in this case will be yes.”
Smith said any financial award from the suit would go to a nonprofit women’s lacrosse
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