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Serious injury Woman awarded €121,917 in damages after being bitten by pit bull

Colene Killian sued her then-best friend’s parents, Martin and Amy Kilduff, over the “terrifying experience”

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A young woman who suffered a serious arm injury after being bitten by a large pit bull terrier in the home of her then-best friend has been awarded €121,917 damages by a High Court judge.

Colene Killian, of Banagher Street, Cloghan, Co Offaly, sued her then-best friend’s parents, Martin and Amy Kilduff, over the “terrifying experience” just after midnight on February 14, 2016 in their home at Clonlyon, Belmont, Co Offaly.

Then aged 21, she claimed she was lawfully on the premises owned and controlled by the defendants as a visitor when she was attacked and bitten by a dog present on the premises.

She alleged the defendants, their servants or agents were negligent and in breach of the Control of Dogs Act over failures to ensure the dog was muzzled and under control.

The case was heard by the High Court sitting in Galway and Mr Justice Tony O’Connor’s judgment, delivered on April 30, was published this week.

The judge said Ms Killian had gone back, by car, with her then-best friend and the latter’s boyfriend Ollie, to the friend’s home. Ms Killian was awaiting collection by her father to bring her home.

While Ollie was in the sitting room continuing a heated argument with a third party on his phone, both women went into a bedroom and were chatting on the bed. 

The dog had also been in the sitting room but escaped, entered the bedroom, jumped onto the bed and nipped Ms Killian’s back, the judge said.

She became hysterical and pleaded for the dog to be taken out, Ollie said he would hold the dog and she could make her way out of the house, the judge said.

When Ms Killian had her hand on the bedroom door handle, the dog lunged towards her and latched onto her arm for about a minute. Ollie pulled the dog away, she saw a chunk of flesh in the dog’s mouth, pulled up her sleeve and saw a “really big hole” in her arm.

When later taken to Tullamore hospital, the wound was too deep to be closed. Washing it out, plus administration of antibiotics, was all that could be done at that time.

Ms Killian was transferred to St James’s Hospital on February 17, 2016, where she spent six days and underwent a procedure to close the wound. A plastic surgeon later told her further surgeries would be required.

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A “genuine and intelligent” plaintiff, there was “not a shred of exaggeration” about her inability to wear short-sleeved tops without the severe indentation being noticed. Her account of breaking down when going for the fitting of her wedding dress “moved everyone in the court”.

She had given up an agricultural course as a result of the trauma of the dog incident. She now works in a residential centre for teenagers with severe behavioural problems and hopes to start a social care course later this year.

The judge awarded maximum general damages of €65,000 to reflect that the situation from April 2016 to April 2021 was physically and psychologically very demanding on Ms Killian.

The trauma, hospitalisation and lack of success in addressing the physical appearance of her left arm, among other reasons, merited that sum, he said.

While the future should be brighter, for reasons including further reconstructive surgeries, she will still have a lifelong scar and phobic anxiety about some dogs, he said. He awarded an additional €45,000 to reflect that, plus special damages, which made a total award of €121,917.
 

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