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$30M lawsuit filed after dog bites boy

Andrew Esposito, pictured here with his mother Heidi

Andrew Esposito, pictured here with his mother Heidi Esposito, was walking from a ball field at John Philip Souza Elementary School toward a playground on May 18 when a family friend's dog attacked him. (June 4, 2012) Credit: Handout

The father of a 6-year-old Port Washington boy is suing his family's former friends for $30 million, after he said their dog, Archie, mauled his son at a school playground.

A lawyer for Edward Esposito and his son, Andrew, said in court papers filed Monday in Nassau Supreme Court that Andrew was walking on May 18 from a ballfield at John Philip Sousa Elementary School toward a playground when the Labrador mix attacked him, "essentially chewing off the screaming child's earlobe."

"The child was catastrophically injured," said attorney Rosemarie Arnold, of Manhattan. "He's going to be significantly disfigured for the rest of his life."

The dog's owners, Michael and Deborah Levine of Port Washington, declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday.

The injury happened when Andrew and his family were attending his 12-year-old brother's baseball game. Arnold said that until the attack, the Espositos and the Levines, whose two sons were also playing ball at the school that day, had been friends. Still, the dog had been a problem, menacing neighborhood children for some time, the suit says. Children who live on Archie's block had been afraid to walk to the bus stop, the suit says.

The suit said there were signs posted clearly at the school that said "Walking Dogs in this Area or on School Grounds is Prohibited."

When the dog attacked, Andrew was walking from the ballfield to the playground, passing the dog, who was walking with his owner in the opposite direction, according to the suit.

Andrew's father found the boy face down on the ground, Arnold said. He grabbed the boy and his detached earlobe and rushed with him to the hospital, Arnold said, where Andrew remained for four days. Andrew has already had one surgery, and will need "many, many more," she said. She said they do not yet know whether his hearing will be affected by the attack.

The case is still being investigated by Port Washington police, Arnold said. Police could not give the status of the investigation on Monday. Arnold said the dog has not been euthanized.

The $30 million covers medical bills and punitive damages, she said.

"They knew this dog was vicious, and they should not have had it on school grounds, where it was prohibited," Arnold said.

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