$1.12M award in fatal pit bull attack

Message sent, but family likely won't be able to collect

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TACOMA — The family of a Pierce County woman who died of injuries suffered during a 2013 dog attack won a bittersweet victory in court Friday.

Superior Court Judge Stan Rumbaugh ruled that Santiago Quezada, who owned the two pit bulls linked to the attack, owed Nga Woodhead’s family $1.12 million.

Attorney Jason Whalen represented Charles Woodhead, Nga’s husband. Whalen noted that the family probably won’t be able to collect the debt. He said it becomes part of an official record and sends a message to owners of dangerous dogs who do not take proper steps to restrain them.

“We’re ensuring that some sense of justice was done for an owner of vicious dogs that failed to take responsibility,” Whalen said. “Knowing this would be an uncollectable judgment, we’ve still established that those who own dogs that cause damage to another within a public right of way are liable for the harm.”

Quezada appeared in court without an attorney. He was never charged with a crime. The Medical Examiner’s Office concluded the dog attack caused Woodhead’s death. Prosecutors reviewed the case for three months, but could not build sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge; it was too difficult to prove Quezada knew his dogs were dangerous before they escaped.

Woodhead, 65, was walking along Pacific Avenue South on Oct. 30, 2013, when the dogs attacked. She tried to fight them off with an umbrella. A passerby rushed to help and shot one of the dogs. Sheriff’s deputies responding to the scene shot the other dog.

According to media reports at the time of the incident, Quezada said his dogs were “nice,” and added that he did not know how they escaped their enclosure at his residence.

Woodhead suffered multiple contusions, lacerations and fractures from the dog bites. Taken to St. Joseph Medical Center, she was treated for those injuries, but suffered a heart attack a week later and died in front of her husband. The couple had been married for 41 years.