Family of Chimp Attack Victim Seeks $50 Million in Damages

Last month, the family of a Stamford, Connecticut woman who was the victim of a violent chimpanzee mauling filed a $50 million lawsuit on her behalf. The suit alleges that the chimp’s owner did not take the necessary steps to assure that other people were safe in the chimp’s presence.

Fifty-five-year-old Charla Nash’s nose, hands, eyelids, and lips were ripped off and a number of her facial bones were crushed as a result of the attack, which took place in February 2009 and received extensive media coverage. According to a story in the Hartford Courant, the lawsuit accuses the chimp’s owner, Sandra Herold, 70, of negligence and recklessness for owning "a wild animal with violent propensities, even though she lacked sufficient skill, strength and/or experience to subdue the chimpanzee..."

According to reports, Herold and Nash were friends and Herold had invited Nash to her home to help her lure the chimpanzee, Travis, back into the house after an escape. According to speculation by Herold, Travis was familiar with Nash, but may not have recognized her because she was wearing a different hairstyle and driving a different car. To put a stop to the attack, which lasted for an appalling 12 minutes, a police officer who had arrived on the scene shot the 14-year-old chimp dead.

The Hartford Courant reprinted portions of the lawsuit, which lists previous incidents involving the chimp. “In 1996, he bit a woman on her hand and tried to drag her into a car; in 1988, he bit a man on his thumb, and in 2003, he escaped from Herold's car and roamed downtown Stamford for hours before being captured.”

Nash received extensive medical treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, but lacked the funds or medical insurance to pay for the treatment. According to the suit, she will likely require multiple surgeries, transplants, therapies, medications, psychiatric care and in-home assistance to perform necessary daily activities.

The attack came some months after the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection circulated a memo warning of possible danger from Travis were he allowed to remain living in a private home. Chimpanzees are reportedly sedate and make good pets until about the age of 6, but from there, they become hard to handle due to their tremendous strength. So how was 70 year old Sandra Herold allowed to keep a tremendously strong chimp with a history of uncontrolled violence in her home? According to another Hartford Courant story, Herold obtained Travis in the years before state permits were required, and the state never pressed the issue, believing Travis was a “local celebrity.”

Under Georgia law, in many cases pet owners are responsible for ensuring the safety of those who come into contact with their animals. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of an animal attack in Georgia, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages under the law. Call MLN Law at (404) 531-9700 for more information.