“Woman Mauled by Chimp Can’t Sue Connecticut”

Woman Mauled by Chimp Can’t Sue Connecticut – NYTimes.com. I didn’t think she would be granted the right to sue, but then I’m not sympathetic to her case against the state.

To me, there still remains a sub-category of Bad Events called “accident.” Shit happens, and it doesn’t always mean that someone must pay. I also believe in a sub-sub-category of “accident” called “absence of common sense.”

I am reminded that when I told you about the publication called Jury Verdict Reporter, I noted that when a jury determines damages in a personal injury case, it is required to assess, using a percentage basis, the responsibility for the injury. So someone who trips over an obstruction in a sidewalk — an obstruction that has been taped off or marked by warning signs — can be deemed by a jury to bear some responsibility for his injury.

In regard to injuries caused by potentially dangerous animals (aside from the recent lawsuit brought by a man bitten by a neighbor’s dog) let me relate to you an incident of many years ago, an incident involving a bulldog named Captain.

I was walking along a narrow sidewalk when I saw in front of me a powerful looking animal on a heavy leash. He was accompanied by his companion, a genial, nice-looking guy with a beard. Ultra-friendly and radiating warmth. Unlike his dog, who was staring at me and not smiling.

The dog was taking up a lot of the sidewalk. I have an aversion to dogs that were originally  bred for fighting and killing and would have walked around him except there was no “around” available. He was very big and wide. So to pass the time, if not the dog, I asked his proprietor, “Is that a bulldog?” and his proprietor said, “Yes! This is Captain. Would you like to say ‘hi’ to Captain?”

My response was something like, “Um.”

Undeterred the proprietor continued (and I am quoting him exactly): “Here’s how to say ‘hi’ to Captain. First, show no fear. He’s real friendly and if you show him distrust you’ll hurt his feelings and maybe he’ll growl, maybe not. Just stand there. Right, you’re doing fine. Don’t come to him—he likes to make the first move. So don’t bend down to him, it’s kind of forcing yourself on him, he just might do quick little nips at your nose in warning. He wouldn’t hurt you, but … you’re doing great, by the way.

“Pretty soon, I’ll tell you when, you can slap your tummy and call out, ‘Here, Captain!’, like that, and he’ll jump right up with his feet on your stomach and say, ‘Hi!'”

Do I need to tell you that I did not say “hi” to Captain?

Somewhere in the Book of Common Sense there is a rule: do not associate closely with animals that could be dangerous, even if you like their owners and their owners assure you that the animals are friendly.

So while I feel bad for the woman who lost her face to that chimpanzee, I wonder what she was thinking putting herself in the vicinity of a wild animal.

And I further wonder why the State of Connecticut should have been in any way held liable for her injury. If I were on a jury asked to assess responsibility, I’d give the woman who owned the chimp 75%, and the woman who was so horribly injured 25%. And indeed:

Ms. Nash [the injured woman] successfully sued Ms. Herold’s estate [the chimp’s owner], but, she said, the settlement was not enough to pay her medical bills and expenses.


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