Looks like Kim Richards will suffer a bigger bite from her bank account than she anticipated in a dog-bite case brought against her by Ellen Catherine Rozario.
“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Richards suffered a financial setback in the case on Tuesday, after an appeals court deemed damages to Rozario “unusually low.”
Rozario sued Richards in December 2014, alleging that the reality TV star’s pit bull, Kingsley, attacked her while the former family friend was visiting Richards, resulting in bodily injury. Rozario had appealed a district court’s damages calculation in the case, and an appeals court partially granted her wishes on Tuesday.
In a memorandum published Tuesday, the appeals court said that the district court erred in arriving at emotional distress damages of $4,000 because it relied on awards from “decades-old cases.” The appeals court also noted that the emotional-distress damages were “less than Rozario’s past medical costs.”
“We reverse the award of emotional distress damages … because it was based on an incomplete analysis and,without further explanation, appears unusually low,” the court found. “On remand, the district court should reconsider the amount of damages in light of the evidence in the record.”
The appeals court also reversed the district court’s ruling on Rozario’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, finding that Rozario sufficiently claimed “outrageous” conduct.
“Richards not only encouraged Rozario to pet the dog, a large pit bull; she did so despite knowing that ‘the dog was dangerous and vicious’ and ‘had previously bitten and attacked a person or persons,’ and she acted ‘with the intention to cause [Rozario] severe emotional distress,'” the court’s memo reads. “A defendant’s knowledge of and failure to eliminate or warn about a danger to the plaintiff that was likely to and did result in physical injuries is sufficient to show outrageous behavior.”
There was a bright spot — sort of — for Richards, as the appeals court upheld the district court’s decision not to award Rozario punitive damages, as evidence “of a defendant’s financial condition is essential to support an award of punitive damages,” and “Rozario’s allegation that Richards is currently employed as a cast member of ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ is insufficient to meet this burden.”
Rozario’s lawsuit contended that Richards’ pit bull Kingsley viciously attacked her while Rozario was visiting Richards, lunging at her and biting her, resulting in “big gaping wounds” on her hand, arm and back.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.