Woman Maimed in Chimp Attack Cannot Sue State


A woman who was the victim of a brutal attack by a friend’s chimpanzee recently lost her bid to sue the state of Connecticut.

According to an article in the LA Times, Charla Nash—the woman who had her face and hands bitten off by a close friend’s chimp named Travis—was seeking money to help pay medical bills incurred following the attack which left her blind and severely disfigured. Nash underwent a facial transplant surgery, among many other operations.

Nash won $4 million in an earlier lawsuit against Sandra Herold’s estate (Herold, who was Travis’s owner at the time of the attack, died in 2010). However, her lawyer says that money is nowhere near enough to pay for the care she needs for the rest of her life as a result of the injuries sustained. According to the LA Times, she planned to sue the state of Connecticut, where the attack to place, for $150 million. But her efforts to sue may have come to a halt, following a state judiciary committee’s ruling:

Connecticut is one of a handful of states with sovereign immunity, which protects it from most lawsuits seeking damages unless a claimant is granted permission.
The decision Wednesday by the state judiciary committee could put to rest Charla Nash‘s legal battle, which has been grinding through various courts since the September 2009 incident outside the Stamford, Conn., home of her friend, Sandra Herold.
Nash was mauled when she went to Herold’s home to help her corral the chimpanzee, 14-year-old Travis, after he had fled onto the street. Police called to the scene shot Travis dead as he clawed at Nash.

Nash, who is now 60, said she was heartbroken about the decision. “I wanted a chance to be able to pay my medical bills and get the assistance I need to live as normal of a life as possible,” she said.

Among other things, Nash’s attorney, Charles J. Willinger Jr., said emails in 2007 and 2008 between Department of Environmental Protection officials indicated that there were concerns about Travis, who weighed about 200 pounds.
“It is an accident waiting to happen,” one official wrote to another about Travis in October 2008, according to the papers submitted requesting permission to sue the state. Since at least 2003, the papers said, state wildlife officials knew Travis was dangerous based on complaints it had received.
Opponents of the lawsuit argued that despite Nash’s horrific injuries, the state neither owned the chimp nor the property on which the attack occurred and should not be forced to pay damages. Allowing the lawsuit to go ahead, they said, would expose the state “to practically unlimited” claims arising from various licensing and regulatory laws.

Nash told reporters she plans to keep on fighting and won’t give up hope.

Image via AP Images.

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