Attorneys for Charla Nash, 55, and her family filed a $50 million lawsuit against Sandra Herold for her ownership of Travis, a 14-year old Chimpanzee, who left her with massive injuries. The 200-pound chimpanzee was a pet despite that fact that in many states such ownership is prohibited.
The tort action filed in Connecticut, alleges that the owner was negligent and reckless in her possession of a wild animal. These reports of the complaint are curious since wild animal possession normally triggers strict liability. The lawsuit alleges that Sandra Herold knew the chimp had a history of violent and erratic behavior. Even with domesticated animals, such knowledge would triggered strict liability under the so-called “one free bite rule.” For example, dogs are subject to strict liability if they are known to have bitten someone. The rule is a bit of a misnomer, as reaffirmed recently in Georgia. It does not take one bite to put a pet owner on notice to attach strict liability.
Thus, assuming that a chimp is considered as domesticated pet in Connecticut, there would still be a basis for strict liability for a pet with a vicious or violent propensity.
The lawsuit alleges that Travis had been acting strange that day and Nash was allegedly called to come over to help Herold get Travis into his cage.
Charla Nash remains in critical condition in Cleveland after losing her nose, upper and lower lips, eyelids and both her hands in the attack. The chimp, who was killed by police, also caused injury to the “bony structures in her mid-face.”
There remains a possible defense of assumption of the risk by Nash as well (assuming this is a negligence case) comparative negligence.
[UPDATE: Strict liability claims are now part of the lawsuit, here]
12 thoughts on “Chimpanzee Victim Files $50 Million Lawsuit”
Nash is now also suing the state.
I read that the chimp was given Xanax by the owner and that it was not prescribed.
Is this the beginning of a lawsuit against the state in which he resides – for not adequately protecting the public via laws that would prohibit…
Since I don’t know squat about strict liability, I’ll just wait in the peanut gallery with everyone else waiting for that verdict for the plaintiffs.
Mike A: “There are far too many people who naively believe that placing a wild animal in a domestic setting is equivalent to domestication.”
Is that how G.W. Bush became president?
I heard that she had given the chimp some medication and that this caused him to act “strangely”, if this is true is there a case against the drug company and the veteranarian if he prescribed the drug? If the owner just gave the chimp something she was using would the drug company be liable for not having a warning lable saying dont give to chimps? I know that sounds like a dumb question but when you see some of the warnings they put on products I wonder.
But, I repeat myself.
I agree that this should be a strict liability case. The problem of exotic pets has become of growing concern here in Florida. There are far too many people who believe that placing a wild animal in a domestic setting is equivalent to domestication.
I agree that this should be a strict liability case. The problem of exotic animals is of increasing concern here in Florida. There are far too many people who naively believe that placing a wild animal in a domestic setting is equivalent to domestication.
What we may have is a “media case,” where the plaintiff’s lawyer looks for more than to just to resolve the case (as it almost certainly will be since the risk to the defendant is so high the insurer must seek to avoid any “bad faith,” and thus must attempt to settle the claim within policy limits). The plaintiff’s lawyer can make much more media hay from this famous case rendering his fee almost irrelevant. We see it all the time in high profile criminal cases where the lawyer accepts little or nothing with the expectation of favorable press as the trial unfolds. This may be why we know so much about the case. I suspect somebody at the law office or connected therewith got this information to the media.
Where is the def going to get 50 million.
This seems kind of ridiculous, even for humans.
Is a chimp really a domesticated animal? I might consider it a wild animal and thus inherently dangerous triggering strict liability. A case in Georgie seems to suggest it might be so Candler v. Smith 50 Ga.App. 667, 179 S.E. 395 (1935) (owner of private zoo strictly liable for injuries neighbor sustained when she tripped and fell while fleeing from an escaped baboon who came on her premises and started towards her “in a menacing manner”). Pleading the case as a wild animal and in negligence is curious. This would invite the assumption of risk and contributory negligence defenses when they could have been easily avoided. By the way, who will pay this judgment if obtained. Most people’s home owners insurance is woefully inadequate to handle a claim of this magnitude. Michael Jackson should take note and get a muzzle for Bubbles, or call his State Farm agent.
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