Housing commissioner had no duty of care to dog attack victim, lawyers argue

And even if that duty of care existed, the government has argued it acted reasonably and could not have known the dogs were a hazard while they were inside and under the control of their owner.

 

  • Patrick Hartigan and Joanne Mangan with their son Jack, 12, who was mauled by two pit bulls when he was just six years old

Jack Hartigan, now 11, was attacked by the dogs while visiting the public housing property on his first play date in late 2010.

He suffered horrific injuries, and has sued the ACT’s commissioner for social housing.

It is alleged that the government had been warned about the two dogs and the danger they posed repeatedly, yet did nothing to ensure the property was safe.

On Thursday, barrister Vanessa Thomas, representing the commissioner, put her closing submissions to the ACT Supreme Cour

She said there was no duty of care owed to Mr Hartigan by her client.

Ms Thomas argued that her client, unlike Domestic Animal Services, had no power to remove the dogs, or prohibit them from being on the premises.

An eviction, Ms Thomas argued, would have been contrary to the central purpose of the commissioner’s role in providing public housing to those in need, and therefore did not create a duty of care.

“My client has a statutory obligation to provide housing to people in need and in my submission that extends to keeping them in housing when they are in need,” she said.

She argued the tenancy agreement held no prohibition on the woman keeping pets.

“There was no basis on which my client could require her to get rid of these dogs,” she argued.

Ms Thomas argued laws that gives landlords a duty of care to visitors only applied to the physical state of the premises.

She argued that the duty being claimed by the plaintiff was “novel”, and did not fit into any accepted category of duty of care, requiring the plaintiff to prove the characteristics of the relationship that proved such a duty.

Ms Thomas said that had not been done.

Further written submissions will be received from Mr Hartigan’s lawyer, John Purnell, SC.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Purnell told the court that the knowledge of the dogs on behalf of Housing ACT was the central issue.

He said the government knew there was a danger, in the form of two dogs, at the premises.

Justice Hilary Penfold will reserve her decision, but warned it may take some time to hand down.

 

 

 

 

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/housing-commissioner-had-no-duty-of-care-to-dog-attack-victim-lawyers-argue-20150716-gidr3c.html