High court reporters
A local authority intends to argue it did not owe any duty of care to a child who was bitten by a dog while a visitor in a council home.
The girl, suing through her father, seeks damages for personal injuries she allegedly sustained when she was at a play date at the premises seven years ago.
The girl who cannot be identified was five years old when she was allegedly attacked without warning by the Belgian Shepherd, suffering a “severe laceration” to her inner thigh that required treatment in hospital.
It is claimed she has an eight-centimetre raised scar on her thigh. A plastic surgeon who inspected the area is of the view the girl will be left with permanent noticeable scars, it is alleged.
The case is against the county council, as well as the dog’s alleged owners: a father, mother and son, who rented the local authority home.
Among the claims is one that the council failed to be aware that the occupants were keeping an alleged guard dog at the property in breach of the express terms of the council tenancy agreement or allowed it. The council is also the local authority responsible for the control of dogs in the county, the plaintiff submits.
It is alleged the dog was not properly supervised or controlled and did not have a valid licence, as required by the Control of Dogs Act 1968. The claims are denied.
In a judgment published this week, Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger gave permission for the council to replace its defence in its entirety.
The local authority’s original defence made several general pleas, including requiring the plaintiff to prove almost all matters pleaded in her claim.
This defence denies the council was responsible for the control of their tenants’ dog at the time or at all and denies it owed any duty of care to the plaintiff or had any responsibility for the care and management of the dog, said the judge.
The council argued that the proceedings should be dismissed against it.
In its amended defence, the council continues to deny any duty of care. It adds specifics, including denying the application of the Occupier’s Liability Act 1995 or the Control of Dogs Act 1986, the judge noted. It also alleges the plaintiff’s claim is misconceived and bad in law in circumstances where the personal injuries summons contains no sustainable cause of action against it, she said.
Ms Justice Bolger was satisfied the amended defence was necessary for determining the real questions at issue between the parties.
She did not believe any prejudice suffered by the plaintiff due to the defence changes would be of any sufficient magnitude if there is any at all.
Whether the council brings a motion to dismiss the case against it, or brings these arguments to the main trial, the plaintiff must prove her case that the council is responsible for the injury she suffered by virtue of owning the property on which their tenants’ dog allegedly caused her injury, the judge said.