Dave and Cathy's Family Blog

July 31, 2012

July 2012 – Family Updates

Filed under: Lilah and Luke,Mom and Dad — dave9169 @ 8:27 pm

July Highlights:

Kids Continue Summer Activities

This month Lilah started junior life guards, a daily 3-week camp that teaches kids water safety, CPR, and how to handle themselves in the ocean. The kids also participate in field trips (one of which is a visit to Santa Cruz island), swim in the ocean, run on the soft sand, and engage in a series of competitions, that include swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, running, etc.. It’s really a great program. Lilah was not into the idea of it and complained a little the first two days, but by the third day she was enjoying herself and looking forward to going. The last test for Lilah and the other kids is a swim around the Ventura pier on the final Friday of the program. Families are invited to attend on that day and cheer their kids on. Originally, I was supposed to swim with Lilah, but due to my cycling accident I will not be able to accompany her. I am a little bummed about it, but I do plan on being there on the final day to shout encouragement to her from the pier. It is a little hard for me to lift my arm at the moment to take pictures. One way or another however, I plan to document some of this and share it in next month’s entry.

In the meantime, Luke is taking fencing lessons once a week. He is enjoying it although he said it gets really hot in his fencing gear. I still have not had a chance to watch him in action because of my recovery, but hopefully I will be coming out to watch him soon so that I can get a few pictures. In addition to the fencing we went to the beach pretty much every week in July so that he could continue to gain confidence in the ocean — part of our preparation for our Hawaii trip in August. We also went to Lake Piru where Luke tried inner tube riding on the lake. He wasn’t really to keen on getting on the inner tube, but after he saw his cousin Nicholas get on and have fun he decided he would give it a go too, but only if the boat pulled him very slowly. Luke got his wish, the captain of the boat went so slow that there was practically no wake behind the boat. A few times I asked Luke if he wanted to go faster, but he said he was fine with the slow speed. In any case, he tried something new so that was cool.

Visiting with Friends & Family

We spent 4th of July with the Levys this year. You can always count on a great time with Moshe and Shannon and the icing on the cake is the great food Moshe so meticulously prepares. This years fare included some great ribs, chicken and steak. The kids also like visiting as they get a chance to play in the pool and try out new activities. The newest activity this year was shooting air guns. Luke learned about these toys from Zack and Zack’s friend who came prepared with a case of air guns, ammo, and lots of friendly advice, training and tips he gladly dispensed to Luke. The kids (and adults) set up a pyramid of plastic cups and took turns shooting at the cups and knocking them off their platform. Luke enjoyed it and is now talking to me about the guns and how they work. This is Luke’s typical preamble. He tells me about a particular activity or toy he is interested in and tries to educate me on how it all works so that he can then soft-sell me on possibly purchasing one of these toys in the future. He says things like “but we don’t have to get it right away,” or “we don’t have to get the super expensive ones,” all in an effort to appeal to my better nature. I enjoy the banter and appreciate the way he seeks for different ways to persuade his dad to do the right thing and get him what he wants ;-).

We also saw our friends from San Diego, Randy and Janae, this month as they camped out at Emma Wood state beach. They also brought along several other family members – Randy’s parents and his brother. It was cool to visit with them as we hadn’t seen them in a while. We also reminisced with Randy’s parents about our days as students during our semester abroad in London. During our semester in London, Randy’s parents came out out to visit us and brought along a much welcome surprise from the states – Mexican food. Essentially, they packed corn and flour tortillas, beans and other condiments into their suitcases so that we were able to experience a true California-Mexican style meal during our stay abroad. It’s  still a night that brings back many good memories and I was glad we were able to go back in time a bit with Randy’s parents and relive the moment again.

This kids also got their fair share of of memory lane experiences when they hung out with their grandma (Cathy’s mom). During their visit, grandma took out her old photos and shared them with the kids. She showed them pictures of her mother and grandmother, images of herself as a young girl, and even a picture of her wearing a Red Cross uniform as a little girl – an outfit she wore when she spent time in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy. The kids had a good time with grandma and Lilah walked away with a few new books as well, which included Alice in Wonderland, Fairy Tales, and the second Harry Potter book. Grandma is looking forward to Lilah reading them and asking her about the stories later.

I Serve on Two -Week Long Jury Trial

One of the things that took me out of my normal routines this month was serving on a Jury trial. The judge initially stated that the trial would last about 5 days, but it ended up taking 9 days instead. It was definitely the most interesting case I had ever been on (I had served in two prior juries), but it was also a very sad, emotional case involving a five-year old girl, Katya Todesco, who was mauled and killed by a pit bull. This article provides a summary of what happened, but is a little inaccurate on the size of the dog (probably more like 75 lbs instead of 35).

The quick summary is that a couple (the Millers) rented their house to a woman named Carolyn. Carolyn then sublet one of the rooms to a mother and daughter to help pay for the rent. Carolyn was also taking care of her daughter’s pit bull at the time. The mom apparently had no idea that Carolyn had a pit pull on the property until about a week or two later when she saw Carolyn and her daughter (Katya) in the backyard playing with the dog. Shortly afterwards, she put in her two-week notice to Carolyn letting her know that she planned to move out. She wanted to move out because she feared for the safety of Katya. Well, one week later the mom went to the house to pick up some of her things from her room and brought Katya with her. While the mom was in her room Katya went out in the backyard with Carolyn (and her daughter) to play in the backyard with the dog. During the play, Katya bumped into the dog and fell on the ground. When she fell, the dog straddled her and then attacked her viciously on the back of her head and neck. Katya died 3 days later.

The trial started out with the mom recounting the story for the jury. Heartbreaking was all I can say to describe her testimony. I don’t think there was a dry eye among any of the jurors. The rest of the trial was spent hearing from all the different parties involved as to the viciousness of the dog, the likelihood that the owners or Carolyn new about the viciousness of the dog, and the fact that the owners could have done something to remove the dangerous situation. Katya’s father was suing for wrongful death against the Millers and the Millers were suing Carolyn for having the dog on the property which was against their lease provision.

To make a long story short, Katya’s family was awarded money to cover the funeral costs but that was it. I did not get to deliberate on the jury since I was an alternate, but I could not help feel that the family should have been awarded more money as per the law. The law states that if you know of a dangerous condition on your property, but fail to act on it, you are considered to be negligent and can be held liable.

Days later, I actually ended up bumping into one of my fellow jurors and he told me that basically most of the members of the jury believed the Millers did not know the dog lived on the property, something I found hard to believe since their son lived in the house next door to Carolyn. And not only did he live in the house next door, he had also jumped the wall separating his property from Carolyn’s on one occasion in order to break up a pit bull fight that Carolyn and her daughter’s boyfriend seemed powerless to stop. There were other clues that came out in testimony that also pointed to the Millers knowing but I guess it was not enough to sway the jury to award a bigger judgement.

My feeling is that the judgement needed to be bigger in order to warn landlords to not be lax in their responsibilities. If you are made aware of a dangerous situation on your property and you fail to act, you should be held liable. I exchanged e-mails with another juror who also had felt the same way, but in a civil lawsuit all you need is a majority (9 out of 12 jurors) to come to a decision.

So I learned two big things from this case. First, despite what you hear sometimes in the news that make it sound like people win million dollar lawsuits left and right from anything from the trivial (coffee that is too hot) to the serious (wrongful death), I think it is pretty hard to win a lawsuit. In this case, a little girl lost her life, and despite plenty of evidence that the owners knew about the dangerous condition, Katya’s family only received enough money to cover funeral costs. Second, be careful around pit bulls. A dog expert came to testify as to the dangers involving pit bulls. He said, that in many communities it’s not even the pit bull that bites people the most. In fact, most dog bite cases come from people getting too close to the face of a cute little chihuahua or golden retriever (the dog gets spooked by the stranger getting so close and ends up giving the person a warning bite). However, the overwhelming majority of fatal bites come from pit bulls because of how they were bred. If you are going to own a pit bull, you better give it some serious training and be in total control of the dog. You can’t just be a lackadaisical dog owner with this breed because when a pit bull goes bad or snaps the results, more often than not, are deadly. This case brought that clearly to light and broke my heart.

I Break My Body in Bike Accident

My heart wasn’t the only thing broken this month however. On July 29, I suffered several broken bones (collarbone, ribs) from a severe fall I suffered while riding my bike during a triathlon in Goleta beach. Basically, the accident happened when I braked right before a 90 degree turn only to lose control of the bike as it went over an uneven section of road. Not too fun to hear the CHP officer mention later that he had marked that section of road with chalk last year to alert cyclists, but hadn’t done it this year because he didn’t have chalk at the time. Before that however, I was on the ground screaming out in pain but unable to really talk. That’s when the CHP officer who was directing traffic tried to provide some help. Only the initial help consisted of him yelling out to me, in a type of military bark that reminded me of the gym teacher in Beavis and Butthead, “Do you need an ambulance SIR?” Then again, “SIR, do you need an ambulance.” And again “Do you need an ambulance, YES or NO, SIR.” I know the guy meant well, but I was so out of it at the time that I just wanted a few moments to collect my thoughts.

In the end, I agreed to be transported to the hospital via ambulance. First I went to Goleta hospital where they ran some X-rays on me, but the Goleta hospital’s CT Scan machine was out so they had to transfer me to Cottage Hospital later. Luckily, I had convinced my dad to come to my race that morning so I was able to leave a message for him on his cell phone so he could collect my stuff and meet me at the hospital. I was also able to call Cathy and my mom and let them know that I was hurt, but did not lose consciousness or anything.

I spent two nights in the hospital unable to even make the slightest movements without experiencing pain. The nurses gave me painkillers which helped, but it did not help with the sharp shooting pains I would experience from moving a hand, arm or leg in the wrong direction. For some time, I remember trying to stay as still as I could because I so dreaded those sharp pains. In addition, I was not able to urinate enough to empty my bladder so I also got to experience another first – a nurse inserting a catheter into me. I admit it felt a little weird to allow a woman other than my wife handle me “down there” but I had no other choice and figured that the pain from the catheter couldn’t be any more than the pain I experienced in my fall. I was right about that, but only by a few degrees as the catheter insertion was possibly the second most uncomfortable experience of my life.

Luckily, it’s been two weeks now, and I’ve gone from not being able to do anything for myself, to being able to walk and drive my car. I am thankful to my family who hung out with me and cheered my spirits while I was in the hospital. I am also thankful for my friends who called and reached out to me via e-mail or Facebook to check up on me and let me know they had me in their thoughts. When you take a blow like that and can’t do much for yourself all those little acts of love and kindness add up. Thank you all for that.

More next month…

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