Woman Mauled by Chimpanzee Settles Lawsuit for $3.4 Million

A settlement agreement has been reached in a lawsuit whereby the victim was mauled by a chimpanzee in 2009. Due to the serious injuries sustained by the victim, her brother filed the lawsuit on her behalf.

Charla Nash was disfigured in an attack by a 200-pound chimpanzee in Stamford, Connecticut.  The victim’s brother, Michael, filed a lawsuit in 2009 in State Supreme Court seeking $50 million in damages from the chimpanzee’s owner, Sandra Herold, who died in 2010.  Nash was blinded, lost both hands and underwent a facial transplant after she was mauled outside Herold’s home in North Stamford in February 2009.

The settlement agreement filed in Stamford Probate Court calls for Herold’s estate to provide Nash with $3.4 million in real estate, $331,000 in cash, $140,000 in machinery and equipment and $44,000 in vehicles.

Charla Nash, 57, now lives in a nursing home outside of Boston.  On the day of the attack, Nash went to Herold’s home to help lure Herold’s 220-pound chimpanzee, Travis, back into her home. But the animal went berserk and ripped off Nash’s nose, lips, eyelids and both of her hands before being shot to death by a police officer.

Travis, the chimpanzee, had starred in television commercials for Old Navy and Coca Cola when he was younger and made an appearance on “The Maury Povich Show.” The chimpanzee was the constant companion of the widowed Herold and was fed steak, lobster and ice cream. The chimpanzee could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, dress and bathe himself and use the toilet.

Approximately one month following the mauling, Nash and her family sued Herold for alleged negligence and recklessness. The lawsuit alleged Herold knew Travis was dangerous but failed to confine him to a secure area and allowed him to roam her property. It also claimed Herold gave the chimpanzee medicine that exacerbated his “violent propensities.”

Travis had previously bitten another woman’s hand and tried to drag her into a car in 1996, bit a man’s thumb two years later and escaped from her home and roamed downtown Stamford for hours before being captured in 2003, according to the lawsuit.

Nash’s family is also trying to sue the state for $150 million but is awaiting permission from the state claims commissioner. The state is immune from lawsuits unless they are granted permission from the state commissioner.

Nash also wants to sue the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which she holds responsible for not seizing the chimpanzee prior to the attack, despite warnings from state biologists that the animal was dangerous.

“I hope and pray that the commissioner will give me my day in court,” Charla Nash told reporters following a hearing in August before Claims Commissioner J.Paul Vance, Jr. “And I also pray that I hope this never happens to anyone else again. It’s not nice.”

Court documents obtained by the AP on Thursday show the settlement between Nash’s family and Herold’s estate had been approved on September 25th by the Stamford Probate Court and that the two sides met on November 13th to finalize it.

However, there is a dispute over the final details. Court documents obtained by the AP Thursday show lawyers for Nash’s family this week accused lawyers for Herold’s estate of failing to provide information needed to complete the settlement. Lawyers in the case did not immediately return messages.

Do you think the settlement is fair?  If the chimpanzee’s owner knew the animal was dangerous, why would she let him roam the property freely?  Do you feel that the chimpanzee’s owner was negligent in this case?  Should the state bear any responsibility?  Feel free to comment on this blog post. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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