Mr B, who was aged 30 at the time of his injury, was visiting his aunt and uncle’s house in Mark Cross, East Sussex. He was alone in the living room watching television and knelt on the floor to stroke their golden retriever dog. As he stroked her, suddenly and without warning, she attacked him and clamped her jaws on his face. He suffered significant lacerations to his face and further puncture wounds to his hand, wrist and the back of his head. He dialled 999 and an ambulance took him to the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury. As he waited for the ambulance, he lost a significant amount of blood and was scared that he would die. Upon arrival at A & E, he was transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead which has a specialist plastic surgery unit.
Oliver Chapman was instructed to pursue a claim against Mr B’s aunt and uncle, as owners of the dog. Mr B informed us that he had heard that the dog had, on a couple of occasions, “nipped” other people but he had no evidence to prove it.
Liability in animal cases, particularly under the Animals Act 1971, is a notoriously complex area of the law. However, liability was admitted subject to us proving the injuries and the financial losses suffered.
We obtained a medical report from a consultant psychiatrist who confirmed that the dog attack was responsible for the claimant developing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression and it exacerbated his alcohol misuse, making him alcohol dependent. We argued that the dog attack was the cause of his ongoing problems and inability to work. However, we faced numerous problems trying to prove the injuries suffered and the losses claimed. For example, the loss of earnings claim was complicated as:
1. Mr B had been out of work for one month before the attack.
2. His work history for the two years before the attack was complex.
3. He had suffered depression before the attack; and
4. There was a history of heavy drinking before the attack
We obtained a report from a consultant plastic surgeon who confirmed that the claimant had suffered significant scarring and recommended further surgery to improve the appearance.
Before issuing court proceedings, we negotiated a settlement of £85,000, which compensated Mr B for the injuries and the financial losses he suffered. This included sums to pay for further surgery and to treat his psychiatric condition.
Oliver Chapman specialises in Animal Act cases. If you would like to ask Oliver a question about a potential case, or if you have a general query about any personal injury, contact Oliver at Thomson Snell & Passmore LLP solicitors on 01892 701234 in confidence.