Beebe and O'Neil

Victim of chimp attack claims government agency was negligent

The state of Connecticut is protected from lawsuits by sovereign immunity, which means that if a lawsuit against the state is to move forward, the state has to first give permission. That permission has to be granted by a special claims commissioner.

With that said, Norwich residents may want to consider the ongoing and much-publicized struggle of a woman who was attacked five years ago by a 14-year-old chimpanzee in Stamford. The attack left the woman severely disfigured. She lost both of her hands and her vision.

The chimp, who was shot and killed by police, belonged to the woman's employer. The woman sued the employer, and the case was settled for $4 million. However, the full cost of the injuries has exceeded the amount of that initial settlement, and the woman is now trying to hold Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responsible for its alleged failure to address the dangers posed by the employer's owning a 200-pound chimpanzee.

A special claims commissioner has already denied the woman's petition for a lawsuit against the DEEP, but a Judiciary Committee has agreed to a hearing on the case. The woman, who now lives in a nursing facility and currently cannot live independently, is seeking $150 million from the agency.

She also hopes to one day undergo successful hand transplants, though she has already endured such procedures that didn't work.

She said the loneliness caused by her injuries, along with the knowledge that the animal attack was preventable, are the most difficult aspects of her situation.

In working with personal injury cases, we're reminded here of how important it is to assess the full range of costs resulting from another party's negligence. Connecticut residents may want to follow this case as it progresses. 

Source: Stamford Advocate, "Chimp attack victim Charla Nash hopes for day in court," Rob Varnon, Feb. 16, 2014

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