Minneapolis settles with victim of vicious attack by dogs

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2008 - 11:19 PM

Minneapolis will pay $367,000 to Paula Ybarra, who nearly died of injuries.

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Paula Ybarra

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The Minneapolis City Council agreed Friday to pay $367,000 to settle legal claims brought by Paula Ybarra, who was horrifically attacked last year by dogs that the city had declared dangerous but never confiscated.

Ybarra, who nearly died and continues to be at risk for a stroke due to severe throat injuries, sued the city on behalf of herself and two daughters. The girls witnessed the attack on their mother at a northeast Minneapolis home.

She still has a lawsuit pending against the owner of the dogs, Thomas Mohrbacker, whom she has known since high school. That's scheduled to go to trial next spring, but the City Council agreed to a settlement on Friday.

"We all agreed it was the right thing to do. We all recognized that this was a profound human tragedy," said Council Member Paul Ostrow, in whose ward the attack occurred.

Ybarra's attorney, Kurtis Greenley, said Ybarra is "very pleased."

He said that the city was taking steps at the time of the attack to improve its procedures for dealing with dangerous dogs but that a lapse in procedure meant that the dogs weren't confiscated as required.

Ybarra was visiting Mohrbacker when the attack occurred as her daughter, Cassandra, then 4 years old, went inside to use a bathroom. A 150-pound bulldog knocked Cassandra over. Then that dog and a 60-pound pit bull attacked Ybarra when she bent to pick up her daughter. She emerged from the house with blood spurting from her neck in front of her daughter, Adriana, then 9.

When help arrived, Ybarra barely had a pulse and had stopped breathing, according to the lawsuit. Greenley said both daughters have received counseling since witnessing the attack.

Ybarra had incurred at least $225,000 in medical expenses by last May when the lawsuit was filed. She's experienced difficulty breathing and swallowing and partial loss of speaking ability, according to her claim.

Greenley said the city has continued to improve its procedures for dealing with dangerous animals, and agreed to mediation to settle the lawsuit. "I do think the city has acted pretty darn responsibly in this matter," he said.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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