Nob Hill Grand Dame Marion Cope Files Claim Against City for Alleged Dog Attack

Where's that dog's leash?
In what could be the overture to a lawsuit ensnaring high-level city officials, Nob Hill resident Marion Cope has filed a claim for hefty cash damages with the San Francisco City Attorney's office, alleging that government negligence contributed to a nasty dog attack last November that left her with a mutilated leg.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with Cope's saga, which was first reported in The Snitch and subsequently covered in an SF Weekly cover story. On Nov. 11, 2009, Cope was walking her Irish terrier past Huntington Park -- where dogs are required by city law to be kept on-leash -- when she was swarmed by three or four off-leash canines, one of which she said bit her, leaving a 10-inch gash in her leg. (Coincidentally, the park is named after robber baron Collis P. Huntington, who also gave his name to the adjacent Huntington Hotel, which was owned by Cope's late husband.)

In her complaint, which was filed with the City Attorney's office on May 6, Cope asks for "an amount exceeding $50,000 according to proof at trial." The claim further states that city officials "have a general pattern and practice of failing to to enforce [San Francisco's] Off-Leash Law" and "with gross recklessness created a dangerous condition of public property."

Under state law, anyone who wishes to sue a city must first file a claim for damages outside of court, according to Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the City Attorney's office. He added that the office had not yet had time to review and respond to Cope's complaint.

From the beginning, a lawsuit seemed likely to spring from this episode. As we reported in December, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, acting at the behest of his District 3 dog-owner constituents, requested prior to the Cope incident that Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg scale back ranger patrols at Huntington Park. Tellingly, both Chiu and Ginsburg are listed as witnesses in the complaint, which you can read here.

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