BOISE -- Have you ever wondered what it would be like to appear in the courtroom reality show "Judge Judy"? Last month, a group of Boise friends found out, taping an episode that aired Wednesday afternoon on KTVB.
Motorcycle rider sues dog owner for multi-bike crash
Last July, Rick Gibson and his two friends Dennis and Vicki Wallace, were all riding motorcycles near Banks when a dog ran out from near the river and in front of an SUV. Gibson says the SUV stopped, Vicki Wallace crashed into the SUV, Dennis Wallace dodged the SUV, but Gibson ended up crashing into his bike.
All had injuries or motorcycle damage, and insurance covered most of it, but Gibson only had liability insurance. He couldn't get his bike repairs covered. Gibson believed the dog's owner was responsible and should cover the cost.
Gibson initially filed a small claims case against the dog's owner, but just a week later, Judge Judy producers convinced him his case may be better solved on television.
"If you win on Judge Judy, you get a check. If you win in small claims court, they may say to the defendant, pay Rick $50 a month, and that's not going to fix my motorcycle," Gibson said.
The Judge Judy experience: What's it really like?
Of course, Judge Judy is pretty well known for her quick temper, so the decision to go on the show wasn't that simple. The Wallaces, who agreed to appear on the show as witnesses, said they prepared for the show in advance.
"Of course when you watch the program, you're scared to death because you figure she's just going to unload on you. But we knew what not to do. Didn't use the filler words and things that make her mad," Dennis Wallace said.
Judge Judy ultimately ruled in Gibson's favor, finding the dog owner at fault.
"If you lose control over the dog, and the dog causes injury, you're responsible. So you're really very lucky none of these people were more seriously injured. Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $3,500," Judge Judy said during her verdict.
Gibson and Wallaces say they survived with minimal injuries because of experience, gear
As Judge Judy said in her ruling, Gibson and his friends know the wreck could have been worse. Gibson credits their decades of riding experience and gear.
"It could have been a lot worse. The main takeaway was I'm glad we were geared up the way we did. We all had boots, jeans, gloves, helmets. We were all riding in a good formation to avoid a tragic situations. We were conscious of our speeds and surroundings. There was no way to be conscious of a dog running out on a busy highway," Gibson said.
Vicki Wallace was the most badly injured, with five teeth knocked out and a bone in her mouth broken. She is still getting dental treatment, which has now cost around $20,000. But again, her husband says that could have been a lot worse too. He says her training helped her know what to do.
"The biggest thing I think it wasn't as bad as it could have been is that we have been riding for a long time. There's nothing to replace experience," Dennis Wallace said. "My wife took the Idaho STAR course when she first started riding, and two weeks after she took the STAR course, she was able to evade a T-bone with her bike and said she couldn't have done it without the class."
Motorcyclist gets paid for bike damage, says the show was a great experience
Gibson says he got his $3,500 a couple weeks later. It was just a week before Christmas, and he says he was able to put money toward gifts, medical bills and fixing his bike.
"It's one of those once in a lifetime experiences. It makes for a great story. I'm glad that it turned out to my benefit. It really met a lot of needs, not only for me fixing my motorcycle, but the little extra that helped me take care of my family. So it was really a huge thing in my life," Gibson said.
Would Gibson go on the show again? He says he had a great time with two of his best friends, but he's not sure he'd test his luck with the television star again.
"As far as doing it again, I feel a little lucky that Judge Judy behaved the way she did toward us. I don't know if I'd want to trust that again!" Gibson said.
Dennis Wallace says he'd definitely go on the show again, though he admits his situation as a witness may have been lower pressure than Gibson's seat.
"It was fun. Yeah, I'd probably do it again if I had the chance. It's a lot easier when you're a witness and not the plaintiff," Wallace said.
Was the case realistic on Judge Judy?
KTVB asked police and attorneys about this case and if it was something that would happen in an actual court case. Boise Police say like in most cities, if a dog is off the owner's property, it must be controlled or the owner could get a dog at large fine, which is $60. The department says the law protects the owner, public and pets.
In terms of a person filing a lawsuit for injury or damage to property caused by a pet, those would be civil actions. Former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy says failing to control an animal is something people certainly sue over and can be successful in winning in Idaho courts. He says the most common cases involve dog bites.
Gibson can't bring back case, Wallaces could still take legal route
The Wallaces and Gibson were paid to be on the show, and their travel expenses (other than meals) were taken care of. Because of agreements with the show and papers filed with the court, Gibson can't bring his case back in Idaho's system.
Dennis Wallace says his wife's dental bills have been mostly covered by insurance, with 85 percent being paid. But since they've gotten near $20,000, he says that's still been a lot. They haven't made any decisions about possible legal action, but he says they're looking at options.
Judge Judy airs on weekdays on KTVB at 2 p.m.