GRIFFITH AUSTRALIA - 2010 - WHEN JACK HARTIGAN WAS ABOUT SIX HE WAS PLAYING WITH A FRIEND RIDING BIKES WHEN THEY STOPPED AT ANOTHER FRIEND'S HOUSE AND THEIR 2 PIT BULLS "SOMEHOW" GOT OUT - JACK SUFFERED SEVERE INJURIES INCLUDING BEING SCALPED!
Jack Hartigan's first playdate was a milestone that turned into a nightmare when he was savaged by TWO AMERICAN PIT BULL TERRIERS.
Jack was set upon by the dogs – who ripped the skin from his head and exposed his skull, damaged his eye, and tore open his face – when his hosts visited a friend's Griffith home in late 2010.
He was hospitalised and forced to bravely endure 17 procedures to repair the damage over the past five years.
An ACT Supreme Court case brought by the Hartigans alleges the ACT Government, as the owner of the property, was liable for Jack's injuries and cost of medical treatment. Court papers, filed by Ken Cush & Associates on Jack's behalf, claim the government had failed to ensure the property had been in a state that would not present a risk of injury to visitors.
But the ACT Government, in its defence, argues it is not legally liable.
Jack had planned to ride bikes at his friend's house on what was his first playdate without his parents.
The stop at the Roe Street property was meant to brief.
Jack remembers the snarling dogs being locked up when they arrived at the home, only to escape when a door was inadvertently opened.
Moments earlier, his friend had bid him to hide in a bedroom with him.
But Jack thought he'd be safer with the adults.
"It was the worst mistake of my life," Jack said.
"One bit my leg, and then the other grabbed my face. Then they were basically tug-of-warring [with my head]."
Jack was scalped, had his face torn open, and suffered numerous other bites to his arms and legs.
Fairfax Media has viewed images of his injuries, which are too graphic for publication.
Now aged 11, he has bravely endured 17 procedures in the past five years, and faces the prospect of several more.
The majority had been to fix the hole in his head, which doctors patched with a skin graft, before stretching the skin by filling it with water.
"It was hell, literally," Jack said.
"I couldn't run around, play soccer, I had to sleep sitting upright."
Negligence by social housing ACT alleged
In the lawsuit, which is expected to go to hearing this week, Ken Cush & Associates allege their client suffered personal injury as a result of negligence by the commissioner for social housing ACT.
Court documents said the residential agreement for the Griffith home prohibited the tenant from keeping pets unless granted permission.
The lawsuit says Housing ACT did not provide this consent and did nothing to enforce the agreement, despite receiving up to nine complaints about the dogs between March 2004 and October 2010.
"It is clear from the available material that the defendant knew and took no steps to correct the breach of the tenancy agreement," court documents said.
"It is further clear … that the defendant knew and was on notice of the fact that the dogs had a propensity to menace, harass and attack other dogs as well as people.
"The defendant was on notice of the concerns that the dogs … were a potential danger to children."
The documents argue Housing ACT owed Jack a duty of care to ensure he did not suffer injury at the property.
It is alleged the territory failed to ensure the property was safe, did not enforce the terms of the tenancy agreement, failed to make sure the property was suitable to keep dogs, and failed to remove the dogs.
The claim is for economic loss, interest and costs.
The ACT Government, in its defence, admitted Jack suffered injuries and disabilities as a result of the attack.
But denied he suffered economic loss as a result, or that it owed a duty of care.
"At all times the servants and agents of the [ACT Government] acted honestly and without recklessness in the exercise of their functions and duties," the defence said.