CONNECTICUT: The Connecticut woman disfigured by a friend’s pet chimpanzee in 2009 was denied permission to sue the state for $150 million dollars. She claimed that officials knew the animal was dangerous but didn’t do anything about it.
In 2009, Charla Nash, now 59 had gone to her friend’s home to help lure the 200-pound chimpanzee, Travis, back inside. The chimp went berserk ripping off Nash’s nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot to death by a police officer.
Nash claimed the state was responsible for failure to seize the animal from the home, knowing it to be dangerous. The state, generally immune to lawsuits unless allowed by the claims commissioner, dismissed her claim.
The state claims commissioner sided with the state saying the law at the time allowed private ownership of chimpanzees and didn’t require officials to seize legal animals. Nash was blinded, lost both hands and underwent a face transplant after being mauled. She reached a $4 million settlement last year with the estate of chimp owner Sandra Herold, who died in 2010.
The $4 million settlement with Herold’s estate, however, covers only a small fraction of Nash’s medical costs. According to Nash’s lawyers, she now requires care and supervision around the clock.
State Attorney General George Jepsen expressed sympathy for Ms. Nash but says the state’s not liable: “We agree with the claims commission that a regulatory statute does not provide a basis to sue the state. To decide otherwise would mean that the state simply could not afford to pass regulations intended to promote order and safety.”
State lawmakers did approve a ban on chimpanzees and other animals deemed dangerous a few months after Nash was mauled.
Travis had previously bitten another woman’s hand and tried to drag her into a car in 1996, bit a man’s thumb two years later, and escaped from Herold’s home and roamed downtown Stamford for hours in 2003 before being captured, according to Nash’s lawsuit against Herold.
Several months before the attack, a state biologist warned state officials in a memo that the chimpanzee could seriously hurt someone if it felt threatened, saying “it is an accident waiting to happen.”
In October 2008, the biologist warned that the chimpanzee had reached maturity and “is very large and tremendously strong.” The biologist said, “I am concerned that if he feels threatened or if someone enters his territory, he could seriously hurt someone.”
Jepsen has acknowledged that the biologist had warned that the chimp was dangerous. But said state law on the issue was ambiguous and difficult to enforce, and there was no guarantee a court hearing would have led to a seizure order.
Lawmakers could overturn the commissioner’s decision and allow Nash to sue. Even so, there would be legal problems with that decision. According to New Haven lawyer Joel Faxon, who is not involved in Nash’s case, the legislature would have to pass a special act pertaining to one person, and that kind of law has been deemed unconstitutional. Many cases rejected by the claims commissioner but later approved by lawmakers have been dismissed by courts because of that issue, he said.
The celebrity chimp had starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola when he was younger and made an appearance on “The Maury Povich Show.” The chimpanzee was the constant companion of the widowed Herold and was fed steak, lobster and ice cream. The chimp could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet, and bathe and dress itself.
“I hope and pray that the commissioner will give me my day in court,” Nash had told reporters following a hearing last year before Vance. “And I also pray that I hope this never happens to anyone else again. It is not nice.” Nash now lives in a nursing home outside Boston.
(Source: The Huffington Post)
- Woman Denied 150 Million Dollars After Chimp Disfigured Her (mosvinbami.com)