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Dog attack victim’s estate sues multiple parties over April 2022 mauling death

The estate of deceased Alabama Department of Public Health inspector Summer Beard has filed a lawsuit against multiple parties over Beard’s death from being mauled by dogs south of Red Bay on April 30.

The suit alleges eight counts each of negligence/wantonness on numerous individuals, including members of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, Brandy Dowdy, the alleged owner of the dogs who is in jail facing separate state charges in the deaths, Animal Control officers Joey Wingo and Matt Mayfield, Franklin County, and Billy Joe Crumpton, the owner of the premises where the dogs were allegedly kept.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputies named in the suit include Clint Holcombe, Chris Hill, Kyle Palmer, and Colt Montgomery. Additionally, the Franklin County Emergency Communications 911 Center is listed as a defendant.

The lawsuit seeks a judgement against all defendants, jointly and severally, and seeks a jury trial to determine and award punitive damages “in an amount which will adequately reflect the enormity of the Defendants’ wrongful acts, and which will effectively prevent other similar wrongful acts, together with the cost of this proceeding.”

It is not known whether the suits against the Sheriff’s deputies will stand as they may be covered by the doctrine of state immunity. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in 2013 on a case from Dallas County that, “deputy sheriffs, like sheriffs, are constitutional officers who, by virtue of the doctrine of state immunity, cannot be sued for monetary damages in their individual capacity when the acts that form the basis of the alleged liability were being performed within the line and scope of the deputy sheriff’s employment.”

About the deaths

Beard was found mauled to death on April 30 after she had gone to visit Dowdy about the dogs regarding an attack that had occurred the previous afternoon. In that attack, several dogs viciously attacked Michelle Sheeks as she walked along County Road 11. Sheeks was seriously injured in the attack and flown to a hospital in Jackson, Miss. She never recovered, though, and died of her injuries on July 12.

Officers responded to the scene of the April 29 attack but did not find dogs that were acting viciously. Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver told The News in April that  when his deputies went to the scene on Thursday with animal control, “the dogs that were there were friendly, and they petted them. There wasn’t any problem.”

However, Oliver said there had been rumblings of problems with the dogs and when officers went back to Dowdy’s home April 30 to investigate a strange car in the driveway, they found Beard’s body. Oliver said the dogs at the scene that evening were put down.

The court document lists eight counts of negligence/wantonness on all defendants listed and closes out the complaint with the following statement:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, Plaintiff demands judgment against each named and fictitious Defendant, jointly and severally, in an amount that exceeds the jurisdictional limits of this Court, to be determined by a struck jury. Plaintiff requests a verdict in Plaintiff’s favor and against each Defendant, named and fictitious, and an award of punitive damages to the Plaintiff Plaintiff further requests that the Court enter judgment consistent with the verdict.

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