The families of the two victims of the 2016 fatal Grover Beach dog attack are in line to receive a combined $500,000 settlement from the home insurance policy belonging to the owners of a house that a former Grover Beach police officer was renting. [Tribune]
On Dec. 12, 2016, the dogs belonging to then-Grover Beach officer Alex Geiger chewed through a fence, broke loose and attacked a 64-year-old man and an 85-year-old woman. The man, David Fear, died shortly after the attack, while the elderly woman, Betty Long, survived with a broken pelvis and broken shoulder.
The dog that was determined to be the more aggressive animal was a Belgian Malinois that had been trained as a K-9 and served in the Exeter Police Department with Geiger. Authorities euthanized the Belgian Malinois following the attack.
Geiger, 25, is facing a charge of felony involuntary manslaughter and two felony counts of owning a dog trained to attack while failing to exercise ordinary care. He faces up to three years and eight months in prison.
Simultaneously, the case is playing out in civil court.
Christopher and Monica Belavic, the owners of the home Geiger was renting at the time of the attack, have now reached a tentative $500,000 settlement with the families of David Fear and Betty Long. A $500,000 settlement is the maximum amount covered by the Belavics’ policy under the circumstances of the case.
A tentative ruling by Judge Barry LaBarbera states the settlement will be divided in three with a third going to the Fear family, a third going to Long and her family and a third going toward shared costs.
The city of Grover Beach, as well as Geiger and the city of Exeter, are challenging the settlement. They allege the Belavics’ insurance has not provided proof of the policy limits and that information is also lacking about the Belavics’ financial state and about how the money will be disbursed.
Jacqueline Frederick, an attorney representing Long, said the opposition is more or less routine, and she expects LaBabera to approve the settlement. LaBarbera is scheduled to rule on the settlement on Aug. 16.
Meanwhile, a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit is ongoing. Long, her family, and Fear’s family filed suit against Geiger, Grover Beach, the city of Exeter and an Exeter officer who trained Geiger’s dog.
Clayton Hall, an attorney representing Grover Beach, said he plans to file a motion to dismiss the city from the lawsuit. Hall said the city had no ownership or control of Gieger’s dogs.
Hall also said Grover Beach Police Chief John Peters will be deposed in the lawsuit and that he will testify that his agency had nothing to do with the dogs. However, records show Geiger lobbied Peters to create a K-9 unit within the police department.
The civil suit is still in the early stages of discovery. Geiger’s criminal case is scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 13.