Charla Nash, a Connecticut woman who was the victim of a chimpanzee attack in Stamford, Conn. in 2009, was denied her day in court and permission to sue the state for $150 million. Under Connecticut law, the state is immune to lawsuits unless they’re approved by state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., who denied Nash permission on Friday and announced his decision in a news release. According to the release, the victim was denied permission to sue the state because at the time of the chimp attack, the law allowed private ownership of the animals.
As a result of the chimp attack, Charla Nash was blinded, lost both hands, and underwent a face transplant after being mauled in 2009. The chimp responsible for Nash’s injuries, Travis, was the pet of a friend. The owner of the chimp, Sandra Herold, died in 2010 and her estate reached a $4 million settlement last year with Nash to help cover her medical bills and compensate her for pain and suffering.
Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who was denied her day in court in the wake of a chimpanzee attack in 2009, requires constant care and supervision. She is facing another surgery for hand transplants and will require antibiotics for the rest of her life. Her lawyer contends the $4 million settlement she received from Herold’s estate covers only a small portion of Nash’s medical costs. Nash, now 59, had gone to assist Herold in coaxing the 200-pound chimpanzee home when the attack occurred. However, the chimp lashed out and tore off a significant portion of Nash’s face and hands prior to being shot. Currently, Nash resides at a nursing home care facility outside Boston, MA.
While State Attorney General George Jepsen said the state should not be held liable for the chimp attack, Nash and her lawyer claim that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is responsible for not seizing the animal before the attack because there were previous incidences reported to the state, as well as a state biologist’s warning, that indicated the animal was a danger to others. According to court documents, Travis had previously attacked and bitten another woman in 1996, bit a man in 1998, and was found wandering loose in downtown Stamford for hours in 2003 before being captured after escaping from Herold’s home. Additionally, Herold did not have a permit allowing her to own the chimp.
Travis, who had gained notoriety in TV commercials and other guest appearances, was shot to death by a police officer at the time of Nash’s attack. He was Herold’s constant companion and fed a diet of steak, lobster, and ice cream. The chimp could eat at the table, drink wine from a glass, use the toilet, and attended to his personal care and grooming needs himself.
While Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who was severely disfigured in the wake of a chimpanzee attack, has been denied her day in court, State Attorney General Jepsen has acknowledged that a state biologist had warned that the chimp was “an accident waiting to happen” before the attack. However, Jepsen said state law on the issue was ambiguous and difficult to enforce and there was no guarantee a court hearing would have led to a seizure order. In response, Nash said last year, “I hope and pray that the commissioner will give me my day in court” and that she sincerely hopes the trauma she suffered can be prevented in the future. In the wake of this incidence, the state banned the ownership of chimpanzees after the attack. Moreover, Nash’s lawyers hope to overturn the denial in next week’s hearing with the state legislature. If it is overturned, Nash will be allowed to proceed with her lawsuit against the state, which would provide Nash and her family with a sense of justice.
By Leigh Haugh