The father of a young girl mauled by a PIT BULL while in foster care says state workers failed to protect her despite knowing that a dangerous dog was in the home.
The dog attacked the girl, biting her in the face, and did not let go until its owner hit it several times. The girl was taken by ambulance to a Northern Michigan hospital then airlifted to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.
She underwent life-saving and reconstructive surgery, an attorney said.
"To this day, she has deforming scars, which cover a significant portion of her face," Petoskey attorney Daniel Harris wrote in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
He filed the lawsuit on behalf of the father, Michael Bosley and his daughter, Nevaeh, identified in court records by her initials, N.G.
The father was given custody of the child two days after the attack and now has full custody, his attorney said.
The state Department of Health and Human Services, foster parent Mary Matthews and five state workers – Sheila Sweet, Jamie McDonald, Maureen Clore, Cindy August and Debra Greenwald - are named as defendants.
A state spokesman said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.
The girl was born Aug. 29, 2013, to Bosley and Adrianna Genna. The parents did not live together but the father had joint custody, his attorney told The Grand Rapids Press and MLive.
Months later, Genna, 18, died and their daughter was placed in foster care, the attorney said. He said his client sought custody but the child was placed with Matthews.
The following summer, Matthews asked state officials about the process to allow her boyfriend, Anthony Lince, and his pit bull, Blaze, to visit frequently.
Lince had to undergo a background check. Matthews provided a clearance form to state workers to allow him to live at her home. The state provided no guidance about the dog, the lawsuit said.
In January 2015, Bosley learned about Lince and the pit bull moving into the foster home, the lawsuit said.
"On more than one occasion, during the routine court hearings, (the girl's) father, Michael Bosley, complained to the Court that he was very concerned for his daughter's safety and well-being while she was living in the home with Blaze," Harris wrote.
"Defendants ignored and disregarded (the girl's) father's complaints."
State workers visited the Emmet County foster home on May 19, 2015, two days before the mauling, the lawsuit said. Workers Sweet and McDonald observed Blaze wearing a shock collar. Matthews said he behaved better with it, a state report showed.
On May 21, 2015, the girl, then 21 months old, was standing in the hallway when "Lince observed Blaze take an aggressive posture and yelled to Matthews to grab N.G. because he could see that Blaze was about to attack, likely because he had seen this same behavior previously," Harris wrote.
He said Matthews could not reach the girl before the dog attacked, "biting and mauling" her face. Lince rushed over and punched the dog several times before it released its grip, the lawsuit said.
The girl underwent "extensive life-saving and reconstructive surgery" after she was airlifted to the Grand Rapids hospital.
After she was discharged from the hospital the next day, she was placed in her father's custody. A few months later, her father had full parental rights.
"Defendant's decision to remove N.G. from the foster care system and return her to the custody and care of her biological father shows a consciousness of guilt as to their deliberate indifference of her safety around the dog," Harris wrote.
"Had Defendants chosen to address the safety concern of the Pitbull days before the attack, N.G. could have just as easily been returned to the custody and care of the father two days (earlier)."
State workers determined afterward that Matthews did not trust the dog around the girl. Before the attack, the dog had torn up a mattress and other items and left scratches on Matthews' arm, leg and ankle, a state report said.
The dog had to go outside when the girl ate because it would steal her food, or grab her sippy cup, the lawsuit said.
After the attack, records showed that Matthews and Lince handed over their foster-care license and asked workers to leave her home, according to a state report filed in court.
The dog's vaccinations were not up to date and it was not licensed. It was euthanized June 1, 2015, state reports showed.
Police reports filed by Emmet County sheriff's deputies showed that a 911 caller reported that a child had been bitten and her injuries were so severe that her "cheeks are missing."
Matthews also had been bitten by the dog and had "large amounts of blood" on her shirt and face, sheriff's Lt. T.J. Rodwell wrote in a report.
Lince, the dog owner, told police that the dog had pulled his ears back just before the attack. He told police the dog was not aggressive but would growl when provoked.
Lince said he had to kick the dog two or three times to stop the attack, reports showed.
Harris said the girl requires further surgeries and counseling.