That Charla Nash was savagely attacked and mauled by a friend's pet chimpanzee was a terrible tragedy, as the world knows. But, please, the taxpaying citizens of Connecticut are not responsible for it.
Ms. Nash was the friend and sometime employee of a woman named Sandra Herold. Ms. Herold kept a pet chimpanzee in her Stamford home. One day in 2009, the 200-pound, 14-year-old animal named Travis escaped from the house, and Ms. Herold asked Ms. Nash to come over and help her get the chimp under control.
The animal attacked Ms. Nash, tearing off her face and hands and blinding her permanently. Police shot and killed the animal shortly afterward.
Now Ms. Nash's lawyers are seeking permission to sue the state for $150 million. The case goes before the office of state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. today. He must decide whether to grant permission for Nash's lawyers to file a lawsuit in state Superior Court. The state enjoys "sovereign immunity" against most lawsuits unless such permission is granted.
Ms. Nash's lawyers say her injuries were a direct result of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's failure to seize and dispose of the chimpanzee. Indeed, officials were aware that Ms. Herold kept the animal. After the fact, when things are always clearer, everyone wishes the department had moved in. But up to that point, the animal had no history of significant aggressive behavior. And when Ms. Herold and her husband, who died in 2004, bought the chimp, it was legal to do so. Chimps weren't banned as pets until after the incident.
By law the state must only pay claims in which the state caused the damage or injury. Ms. Herold and her husband chose to keep a large, strong, wild animal in her home, not the state. Ms. Nash chose to help her friend. If we could pursue monetary damages from the state every time our own choices ended badly, the state would be go broke.
Ms. Nash, for whom all feel sympathy, has filed suit against the Herold estate. That is her proper remedy.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun