A Siberian Tiger escapes from its cage in the San Francisco zoo and killed one zoo visiter and mauled two others. It is a case that will likely lead to litigation, but the plaintiffs could face some special rules for zoo liability. However, this is not the first time for either the zoo or this particular tiger, which attacked someone in 2006.
The tragic incident occurred on Tuesday and was shot and killed by police. The tiger escaped only 15 minutes after the zoo’s closing time. The 300-pound tiger named Tatiana went into the zoo cafe and attacked someone eating there. He was the one fatality.
Zoo attacks (sounds like a Fox special, I know) are not uncommon. Under the common law, possessors are strictly liable for injuries causes by their wild animals. A Siberian tiger would certainly fit into that category. However, many states have passed special legislation to protect zoos from strict liability, often returning them to a standard negligence standard.
Only a year ago, the National Zoo in Washington was briefly shut down after a clouded leopard escaped overnight and was found snoozing in another part of the zoo.
Courts have rejected strict liability claims on the basis that this is a public enterprise as well as rejecting attractive nuisance claims for children injured. In Guzzi v. New York Zoological Soc’y, 182 N.Y.S. 257 (N.Y. App. Div. 1920), the court held that the society, which maintained the Bronx Zoo, would not be liable in strict liability or nuisance after a girl who crept under the cage of a bear.
The problem of the zoo is that it appears that this is a second attack by this tiger at this zoo. Families watched in shock in 2006 when Tatiana mauled a zoo keeper.
The tiger arrived in San Francisco from the Denver Zoo on December 16, 2005.
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