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Defiant DH wins over $500k in dog attack case

31 July 2016

Betty's persistence paid off
That Sunday evening of Sept. 6, 2015 would have been an ordinary dog-walking day for Betty, a domestic helper in Discovery Bay, until a surprise attack by her neighbor’s pet inflicted a lasting injury that changed her outlook.
That experience and the ensuing protracted fight for compensation from the dog-owner opened her eyes to the reality that, in her words, “people here look too low on us domestic workers.”
The 59-year-old Filipina was not actually the target of the unleashed Bernese Mountain dog’s rage, but her employer’s Golden Retriever that she was walking at around 6pm.
When the aggressor jumped on the other dog, the force threw her to the pavement that she injured her right arm. Her daughter, also a domestic helper in the neighborhood, called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital.
Doctors who attended to Betty said the fall broke her arm bones and damaged her wrist bone. She stayed in hospital overnight and her arm was put in a plaster cast so the fractured bones could bond naturally.
But only the ulna – the secondary arm bone – bonded while the main bone, called the radius, remained fractured to this day. That left Betty unable to use her right arm again to do her daily chores, a reality that led her to decide she had to fight for compensation from the dog’s owner, well-known lawyer.
In retrospect, Betty told The SUN that the lawyer would walk his dog at about the same time that she walked her master’s pet. The only difference was that the lawyer would not leash his dog, which she said had a history of aggressiveness. At one time it bit the hand of another helper, Betty said.
The lawyer paid for Betty’s medical expenses, as the woman had to go back to the hospital for treatment every two weeks.
One month after the attack on her, the lawyer still kept his dog on the loose. When she asked him why, he supposedly said the dog didn’t want to be leashed.
Betty said she went to seek assistance from the Consulate on Oct 12 last year and officers of the assistance to nationals section told her they had a lawyer who could help her apply for legal aid. She also approached the Mission for Migrant Workers, which helped her process her documents.
She gave the documents to the Consulate’s lawyer who told her to take the papers to the Legal Aid Department.
Betty said at first people at the Legal Aid Department were cranky and indifferent to her.
“Sinigaw-sigawan pa ako ng Legal Aid. Nagalit pa sila. Bakit daw ako nag-Legal Aid? Hindi ko daw ba alam na may bayad ito?”, Betty said.
But she persisted and after two months they eventually asked her to see them.
They let her sign a heap of documents, which her escort, ATN officer Danny Baldon, signed for her because she could not move her fingers and her arm was still in a sling.
Even after a lawyer had been assigned to her, gathering evidence was difficult because neighbors who witnessed the dog attack refused to testify. They even reportedly tried to dissuade her. Only one, a Caucasian, agreed to give evidence.  
At first, Betty said that even her Australian boss tried to discourage her when he found out she was pressing charges. He scolded her and even called the lawyer to settle the dispute with her.
“You drop the case. You won’t win against him,” Betty quoted her boss as saying. “If  you win, he won’t pay you, not even $80,000, or $50,000,” he allegedly said. But Betty replied she was pressing with the case.
“Nakita ko sa amo ko na ang mga employer maliit lang ang tingin sa mga katulong,” said Betty, a Born Again Christian.
Her strong faith made her determined to fight, so one day she prayed to God to give her strength and she reportedly heard Him whisper: “I won’t abandon you, my child.”
Later her boss found out he had insured Betty for work-related injuries or death. He reversed and backed her fight, paid her expenses, salaries and allowances. Betty later learned that all his opposition stemmed from his losing $3 million in a past litigation.
Meanwhile, the Legal Aid lawyer wrote the dog owner asking him to settle or he would file the case in court.
On May 3 this year, the lawyer and Betty signed the settlement deal. In all, Betty said, the lawyer paid her about $510,000 and paid for all her hospital bills and medical treatments.  The lawyer also paid her $31,000 in gratuity. Betty said she gave $100,000 to Legal Aid lawyer and $58,000 to her boss for his expenses.
Betty is going home for good in September after working for 23 years in Hong Kong. Despite injuring her arm, which is her work instrument, she is glad enough that she is going home with money to cover for her loss.
She said she would put up a boarding house so she would have steady income back home now that she’s incapable of working.
Her advice to fellow domestic workers: “Don’t be afraid to fight for your injuries. Be bold, be daring in fighting for your rights.” - Vir B. Lumicao
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