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Lawmakers deny chimp victim's bid to sue state

Charla Nash road to recovery

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A woman disfigured in a 2009 chimpanzee attack said Wednesday she is "heartbroken" that Connecticut lawmakers recommended she not be allowed to sue the state for financial damages, adding that she had hoped to tell her side of the story in a courtroom.

Charla Nash claimed state officials knew the 200-pound chimp was dangerous and being kept without a permit before it went on a violent rampage that cost Nash her nose, lips, eyelids and hands before it was shot to death by a police officer.

"This process isn't fair," Nash said in a written statement. "I wanted a chance to be able to pay my medical bills and get assistance I need to live as normal of a life as possible."

While not specific about her possible legal options, Nash said she's not giving up hoping, saying, "this means too much to my daughter Briana and me."

The legislature's Judiciary Committee voted 35-3 in favor of upholding last year's decision by State Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., who refused Nash's request for permission to sue the state of Connecticut. The General Assembly still has the option of approving Nash's suit but that's considered to be an uphill battle.

Vance and state Attorney General George Jepsen maintain the state did not have a duty to protect Nash, who was attacked on private property in Stamford. Nash had come to help her friend and employer Sandra Herold lure the woman's pet chimp, named Travis, back inside, but the animal went berserk.

Months before the attack, a state biologist warned state officials in a memo that the chimpanzee could seriously hurt someone if it felt threatened, saying "it is an accident waiting to happen."

Nash originally sought $150 million from the state, but her lawyers later told lawmakers she would accept significantly less.

While acknowledging it was "next to impossible to not have some sympathy" for Nash, Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, the committee's co-chairman, said he agreed with Vance and Jepsen.

Some committee members spoke about the difficulty in voting against Nash, who had impressed them with her courage earlier this month when she appeared at a public hearing with her daughter. Nash has undergone a face transplant and is currently living in a Massachusetts convalescent home, awaiting a hand transplant.

"It was heart-wrenching to see her daughter feed her a little bit of lunch because she couldn't even grasp the food with her arms," said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, the highest-ranking Republican senator on the committee. "Nonetheless, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to find a legal basis that would afford her an ability to sue the state without, in my opinion, opening up the state to innumerable claims."

Nash reached a $4 million settlement in 2012 with the estate of Herold, who died in 2010. Nash's attorneys have said that will only cover a small portion of her medical costs.

While she receives Social Security disability and Medicaid payments, Nash's housing, treatment and meals at the nursing home cost about $16,000 a month, according to her attorneys. That amount does not include outside medical care, medication costs and surgeries.

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LMetz11822 April 02 2014 at 8:43 PM

I guess my question would anyone want to keep a 200 lb. chimpanzee as a pet. Chimps are not like dogs or cats who are content being a companion to a human. Obviously this chimp didn't belong to this woman who was horrifically mauled, but it should not be up the state to provide her with compensation because of poor decisions either she or others made. It is a very sad case and fortunately she was able to get at least $4 million for her pain and suffering.

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magavity LMetz11822 April 02 2014 at 8:50 PM

Just an FYI the chimp was not hers. It belonged to her friend.

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2 replies
LMetz11822 magavity April 02 2014 at 8:59 PM

I know. I was just questioning the logic of anyone who would want to keep a 200 lb. chimpanzee as a personal pet.

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sf49ers817 magavity April 02 2014 at 9:16 PM

FYI, she knew the chimp and the woman, they were friends for a long time, the chimp knew who she was but did not recognize her because she had changed her hair color and style which did not make it her fault but it also does not make it the states fault either.

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ajwfromo April 03 2014 at 8:27 AM

It is a horrible what has happen to her, but at the same time she was good friends with Travis she took him on all the towing calls, they show her and the chimp driving up and down the streets waving to everyone. She should have taken precaution knowing that a chimp has 7 times the strenght of a man and stayed away. It is just common sense, now she wants to sue the state fo Con for millions for her own stupidity. I agree she should not be able to sue. I am sure she is getting alot of medical and care for free. The money is more or less for the daughter, all the money in the world will really not be able to help this women.

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twosharks April 02 2014 at 7:13 PM

This is truly sad, but she above most knew how dangerous the chimp was.

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SumrNyte April 02 2014 at 7:09 PM

After reading many comments, I think the real issue should be state laws regarding wild animals. As many have already stated, no private person should be able to own a wild animal. I've read many articles from such persons saying how their 350lb bengal tiger or lion was nothing but a big baby. Well perhaps, at that moment, but they are wild and will react with instinct. Wild animal ownership should be regulated and left to organizations who actually know how to properly care for the animals and have the appropriate facilities. What happened to this woman is horrific, however, she did put herself in harms way. Hopefully, ALL states will review their wild animal ownership laws and enact legistation to prevent people from getting in over their head regarding 'cute pets'.

Yes, I know, you're going to say more govt. control for everyone just because an idiot thought a 200 lb chimp was her *buddy*...however, I'm thinking of some innnocent person walking down the street at the wrong time who be killed by a dangerous animal. Not owning a potentially dangerous wild animal is not rocket science for most of us...but you do have those few...

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1 reply
Sandy SumrNyte April 02 2014 at 7:17 PM

You are absolutely correct! There is no reason for private citizens to own and keep wild animals. They can never be fully trusted because of their wild nature. What psychological issues does a person have that they need to have a wild animal as a pet? Even experienced animal trainers are sometimes attacked and killed. To love animals is to respect them for what they are and allow them to live as nature intended.

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junglecruiser April 02 2014 at 7:01 PM

Moral of the story, some animals are just that, not "pets".

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shenandoah0135 April 03 2014 at 8:27 AM

At the time of this horrific attack I was as shocked as others were. However, I also knew the story of a couple in California who were forced by the State to give up their "pet" chimpanzee. They fought to get him back. The man was on TV carelessly stating that all pets, dogs, etc., bite. No recognition in that statement that chimpanzees have one of the most powerful bites of all biters. When adult, as the chimp was in this sad story, the animal has the strength of men. Nash had interacted with this chimp for years with her friend Herold. They both treated the animal like an overgrown boy. Nash made a mistake in my view - among others, of holding up a toy in front of her face to attract the chimp towards her, thinking she was dealing with a child. It attacked. The owner was oblivious to danger to others as well, she and others drove the animal around town in a truck. In the case in California, they couple were delivering a birthday cake to their former "pet" at a sanctuary. Unnoticed, a group of chimps in a nearby pen escaped. The man's injuries were as horrific as Nash's. And yes, those chimps did some serious biting. In the news yesterday was a man who doesn't care for dogs but keeps a full grown adult jaguar as a "pet." He walks it in public on a leash. Another disaster waiting to happen. And these foolish people think the various states should save them from themselves - and pay out for not persuading against their stupidity? I am sympathetic towards Nash and her daughter, but the decision was a right one.

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chattysparrow April 02 2014 at 6:59 PM

VERY TRUE..ANY ANIMAL CAN ATTACK..MY FRIEND WAS CURLED UP WITH HER ROTTWEILER WATCHING TV. THE DOG WAS ASLEEP....SHE LEANED OVER TO KISS HIM AND IT STARTLED HIM AND HE BIT OFF HER ENTIRE NOSE...AND MAY I ADD ..SWALLOWED IT..PATTY CALLED 911 GOT A TOWEL ON HER FACE AND WENT OUT FRONT TO WAIT FOR THE AMBULANCE...OVER MANY PAINFUL OPERATIONS AND A TRIANGLE OF SKIN CUT FROM HER FOREHEAD TO FORM A NOSE, WHICH SHE CANT BREATHE OUT OF...SHE IS HEALING..HORRIBLE EXPERINCE...SHE HAD THE DOG FOR YEARS...NEVER TRUST ANIMALS..

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1 reply
Sandy chattysparrow April 02 2014 at 7:23 PM

Even the most gentle animal will attack if threatened. There is wisdom behind the adage "Let sleeping dogs lie". That is a horrible story - I'm sure the animal did not even know it was attacking its owner at the time.

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JohnnYuma April 03 2014 at 8:29 AM

Chimps, "pet" snakes, and a host of other foreign animals need to be banned from USA immediatley!
Stop fooling around with legislation from one politician to another and Git er done!

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1 reply
Susan JohnnYuma April 03 2014 at 8:38 AM

The Everglades and South Florida are crawling with invasives that people kept as pets. Honestly, something is wrong with someone who can 'bond' with a cold-blooded reptile such as a snake or iguana. Now there are iguanas the size of aligators (6' or longer) and pythons that can eat aligators, thanks to those sick people who have these types of invasives for whatever reason. It appears they do because of some sort of need attention - or perhaps those people are just cold-blooded themselves and somehow identify with these reptiles.

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Say NO to libs! April 02 2014 at 6:58 PM

Medical care costs in this asinine liberally dominated country are INSANE.

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shenandoah0135 April 03 2014 at 8:34 AM

Correction of an omission - I meant to say that an adult chimp has the strength of 6 men. In their natural habit they are deadly killers. They hunt in packs and with precision and intelligence. I find it amazing that other with chimp "pets" do not read and take note of other deadly attacks from these animals. However, it has been proven time and again that those who keep "exotic" pets think it won't happen to them. On the TV program about such pet owners, we have seen tigers, pythons, lions, etc., killing their foolish "owners." A couple even has a massive buffalo/bison and it watches the TV in the living room! I never followed up on this program after seeing another follow up of a man gored to death by his "pet" deer. For heaven's sake, every year dairy bulls kill farmers and they are domestic animals. A chimp taught to turn on the dishwasher is always a chimp.

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1 reply
suadeblue shenandoah0135 April 03 2014 at 9:05 AM

Exactly. Chimpanzees dismember other rival chimps from other clans. What the h*ll was she thinking? SHE and only SHE is the one at fault here. SHE was negligent--not the State!

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