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Dog Bite Lawsuit—Dr. Phil Bites Back

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Beverly Hills, CAIn December 2009, Janet Harris was visiting her friends Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw at their Beverly Hills mansion when she was bitten by their dog Maggie, a Korean Jindo. (Harris, a skin care specialist, was also a frequent guest on the Dr. Phil TV show.)

According to the negligence lawsuit filed by Harris's personal injury attorney, Maggie attacked Harris "without provocation and warning." And when Robin offered to take Harris to the hospital, Dr. Phil told his wife not to because it would create "unnecessary" bad press. Instead, Harris was prescribed antibiotics privately (through a nurse friend who knew a physician), but the next day her arm was swollen.

Harris then had to get a tetanus shot and IV antibiotics after an infectious disease specialist diagnosed her with pastuerella multocida, the most common cause of infection from animal injuries. (Although common, this disease can be life-threatening; it can infect the respiratory tract and even cause meningitis.)

But her health problems escalated. Harris claims she developed hypersensitivity to the antibiotics and—according to her lawsuit—suffered "permanent side effects, including nearly total hearing loss in her right ear and a right hand tremor, amongst others, which have hindered her ability to work and forced her to close her Beverly Hills skincare clinic." Apparently a photograph obtained by radaronline.com shows a puncture on Harris's hand: her lawyers say this wound caused cellulitis and an infectious disease—"significant damage." The lawsuit alleges that the dog bite injury caused a serious infection that would have been fatal if Harris had not been placed on antibiotics within 72 hours.

"Dr. Phil's response to the complaint exhibits his arrogance which is consistent with the unconscionable manner in which he's treated Janet Harris since the day she was bitten by Maggie," said her attorney. Harris is seeking an unspecified monetary amount in damages, including all medical-related expenses.

According to RadarOnline, Maggie the Jindo (a dog that is well known for its unwavering loyalty and gentle nature) hasn't yet been reprimanded, even though there have been former victims. Maggie has attacked on four separate occasions and there are at least two more victims besides Harris.

In March 2010, Harris's doctor submitted a report to the Veterinary Public Health-Rabies Control Program.

California law states that the animal owner is typically contacted through a quarantine notice informing them within 10 days they can't take the animal off their property and if it becomes ill they need to notify authorities immediately. The owners are also requested to submit a rabies certificate attesting to their animal's health. According to radaronline.com, several letters were sent to the McGraws, but Harris doesn't know if they followed up—either with the certificate or behavior modification training.

Meanwhile, Dr. Phil's attorneys are demanding that the lawsuit be dismissed because it's in violation of an agreement to arbitrate any disputes. Stay tuned…

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READER COMMENTS

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I think sometimes people make mistakes but it also takes two in this case. Why was dog in the home or vicinity if it had a history of biting? Its inconvenient at times, I know because I own a beautiful husky, but if it bites, even at play, can't take chances. The lady needed to be more responsible about her well being by refusing to be near dog or in same room, especially if she knew it's history. This is another, "jumping the bandwagon" to try and collect some free money from someone perceived as having "deep pockets" obviously her business was already failing long before this incident if she had to shut it down, there is more to that story. As to cellulitis, it is generally result of scratching an itchy bug bite, something you may not be able to see, I never heard of a dog bite being itchy and causing cellulitis and antibiotics should of stopped it anyway, unless she didn't take care of it better, I bet it's unrelated coincidence as there's been a number of cellulitis victims in the last year in my community alone. Plus EVERYONE knows you go get tetanus shot when bitten by animal or human! And I bet the nurse told her that the first night she was treated. Lastly, EVERYONE knows the importance of minimizing bad press for celebrities and if she was any sort of "friend" she'd understand that but obviously she was looking for a way to "slam" Dr Phil and his wife and/ or prosper from their loss. Pets are just as loved and a part of a family as any human being is and often times even more cherished. That lady needs to "grow-up" if she's going to play with the stars.

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