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Offaly woman attacked by pitbull terrier gets €122,000 in damages

Colene Killian has undergone surgery multiple times due to her injuries.

A YOUNG WOMAN left with a permanent scar after having a portion of her arm bitten off by a pit-bull terrier while visiting a friend’s house has been awarded almost €122,000 in damages.

Colene Killian (26), a student and mother of one from Co Offaly, sued her friend’s parents, Martin and Amy Killian, as the owners of the property where she sustained horrific injuries when attacked by the dog in the early hours of February 14, 2016.

The High Court heard that the women noticed the dog had a chunk of yellow flesh from her arm in his mouth which left a large hole in her arm.

The large pit bull terrier, who belonged to Ms Killian friend’s boyfriend, escaped from a living room and entered the bedroom where she was talking with her friend.

Ms Killian became hysterical after the dog jumped up on the bed and nipped her on the back

Although she pleaded for the unmuzzled dog to be taken out, the friend’s boyfriend, who had been engaged in a heated argument on his phone, replied: “I’m going to hold the dog and you can make your way out of the house.”

The dog lunged at the plaintiff after she placed her on hand on the handle of the door and latched on to her arm for about a minute.

The pit bull terrier’s owner warned her: “If you pull away he is going to take the piece” before he kicked the back of the dog and pulled it away.

Mr Justice Tony O’Connor said it was extraordinary that the dog’s owner did not want to bring Ms Killian to hospital and had concocted a plan to get her into a car and away from the house before her father arrived to collect her.

The judge said more curiously Ms Killian was driven to a sports field while still bleeding while her friend did not reply when the plaintiff’s father rang to find out about his daughter’s whereabouts.

He noted the dog’s owner suggested that a triage nurse at the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore be told that the wound was caused by a stray dog.

The judge said Ms Killian was only able to tell the nurse the truth when they were alone.

She was ultimately transferred to St James’s Hospital on February 17, 2016 where she underwent two operations during a six-day stay.

The court heard that Ms Killian developed “awful psoriasis” which left her scar covered in scabs.

Mr Justice O’Connor said the patient, who has an optimistic and bubbly personality, was knocked back severely after being told by a consultant plastic reconstruction surgeon that she would need three further operations on her arm.

The movement of her fingers impacts on muscle which is stitched to her scar which the judge said was “not a pretty spectacle”.

The judge said there was “not a shred of exaggeration” about Ms Killian inability to wear short-sleeved tops without the severe indentation in her arm being noticed, while she would continue to suffer such ignominy in some respect for the rest of her life.

He observed that the plaintiff’s description of breaking down when attending for the fitting of her wedding dress had moved everyone in court.

Mr Justice O’Connor said her terrible experiences had been exacerbated if not caused by the wrongful acts and omissions of the defendants.

The judge noted that the victim had given up her agricultural studies in 2016 as a result of “hitting rock bottom in mood from the trauma”.

While she was now working in a residential centre for teenagers with severe behavioural problems while also studying at Athlone Institute of Technology, the judge said she remained fearful about how her injuries might impact on her future employment opportunities.

A psychiatrist gave evidence that Ms Killian has experienced post- traumatic stress disorder which had gradually improved.

Assessing her injuries and the deflation from the lack of success in addressing the significant physical appearance on her left arm, the judge awarded Ms Killian a total of €121,918 in damages.

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Seán McCárthaigh