Circuit Court president Mr Justice Raymond Groarke said the dog, Misty, which had been “arrested” for several weeks by gardaí, should not have been allowed back in Ella Field’s apartment block, as she was terrified of it and had needed to readjust her life to avoid meeting Misty.
Judge Groarke said he was astonished that the possibility that Ella had been bitten by Misty had not crossed the mind of its owners, John and Anne Roche Kelly, who denied it ever happened.
He said he had no doubt Mr Roche Kelly had been in control of Misty, who had been kept on a leash, but it was in the nature of young dogs of this breed to make a nuisance of themselves around children and adults.
The court heard that in June 2013, Ella had been returning from her granny’s and had been roller-skating back to her apartment block door at Sandyford View, Blackglen Road, Dublin, when she met Mr Roche Kelly and Misty.
Ella told her barrister, Fiona Gallagher, that Misty had been barking when she was waiting for Mr Roche Kelly to open the front entrance door to the block. The dog had bitten her while she passed inside.
Her father, Erik, had asked Mr Roche Kelly to come to their apartment to have a look at Ella’s injury. Mr Roche Kelly alleged the then nine-year-old had fallen while roller-skating.
Mr Field told the court that he had informed Ms Roche Kelly that Misty had charged down the stairs and nipped at him and his wife a couple of times.
Ella had been taken to Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, by her mother, Deborah Field, where her wound was cleaned and dressed.
The court heard Ella panicked every time she saw the dog and had needed to exit her ground-floor apartment through her balcony, until the Roche Kellys moved to a different block in the same complex. Ella said she would still be terrified when she met Misty.
Dr Ciara Martin, consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at Tallaght Hospital, said the injury had been consistent with a dog bite.
The judge said Ella had developed a very serious psychological trauma. Having been told the wound had left a scar, he awarded her €15,000 damages.