A young Hong Kong woman who was mauled by her neighbour's two Tibetan mastiffs has been awarded nearly HK$1 million (S$180,000) in compensation, after a judge ruled her injuries could be life-altering.
On Tuesday, the District Court found in favour of Man Sze-wai, 26, who filed a negligence claim against Cecilia Chui Woon-ho, and her son Au Yeung Ting-chung, over the attack outside her village house at Mountain Royal in Yuen Long on November 11, 2015.
District Judge Chan Kam-chuen ordered the family to pay HK$961,055 in damages, after he said that Man, who was 22 at the time of the incident, might struggle in her personal life after she was left with multiple scars on her face and body, and would have difficulties playing the piano any more after sustaining permanent injuries to her right hand.
The judge also granted her claim for past and future medical and psychological treatment, and the purchase of expensive fish maws and bird's nests, which, according to Chinese customs, are food items that can help the healing process.Cecilia Chui was ordered to pay Man Sze-wai HK$961,000 in compensation. PHOTO: South China Morning Post
Man, a former Cathay Pacific Airways employee, lodged the legal bid after a criminal case established that the Tibetan mastiffs, each weighing more than 42kg, were neither leashed nor muzzled despite being unattended at the time.
Chui was convicted at Tuen Mun Court of four animal control offences and fined HK$18,000, with the magistrate ordering her dogs be classified as dangerous.
At the District Court, Chui admitted she was liable for the dog bites, but questioned the seriousness of Man's injuries and challenged the experts' assessments.
The trial heard that Chui, and an unnamed friend, followed Man and took more than 50 video clips of her in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, which Chui said proved Man did not come to fear large dogs as she had claimed, and she could still socialise with friends normally after the incident.
But Chan accepted Man's testimony that the video clips showed her handling her family pet and shopping with her family members instead of her peers.
The judge further accepted Man's medical and psychological reports, which said the woman had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, and continued to feel emotionally numb and kept her distance from people.
The woman, who attained Grade 8 in piano at the age of 16, would also experience permanent weakness in the right hand, meaning she would need to overcome hurdles to attain performance level in the future, the judge continued.
"The many activities and enjoyments, including playing the piano which had been and could be so much part of her life, that she could have enjoyed while young and for quite a long while, are now mostly lost to her," Chan said.
While the judge refused to award Man damages solely based on her expenses on expensive health foods, he agreed to grant her HK$9,000 in joint consideration of medical expenses incurred in treating her scars.
Chan also ordered the family to bear 95 per cent of Man's legal costs in the proceedings.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.