Charla Nash, who lost her eyesight, lips, nose, and hands when she was mauled by a chimpanzee in 2009, has been denied permission to sue Connecticut.
Her family sought permission to sue for $150 million but was denied on Friday by state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr.
Connecticut has “sovereign immunity” from lawsuits unless they’re allowed by the commissioner.
Charla Nash’s lawyer had said the state should be held responsible for failing to seize the animal before the attack, because it was warned the animal was dangerous.
J. Paul Vance Jr. said in his decision that at the time of the attack, state law did not prohibit the private ownership of chimpanzees and did not require the state to seize an animal that was privately owned and not banned by the state.
He noted that the state banned the ownership of chimpanzees after the attack.
“The State of Connecticut, were it a private person, would generally not have any duty to control the conduct of (a) third party absent some special relationship,” J. Paul Vance Jr. wrote.
Charla Nash has a chance to appeal to the state General Assembly to reverse Vance’s decision.
“I hope and pray that the commissioner will give me my day in court,” Charla Nash previously 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 is not nice.”
State Attorney General George Jepsen said the state shouldn’t be held liable for the mauling.
He argued the judge should deny permission due to a law called the “public duty doctrine”. It says the state has a duty to protect the general public in regulatory matters, but not any individual who is injured by another person not complying with regulations, the Hartford Courant reported.
Charla Nash, who received a successful face transplant in 2011, reached a $4 million settlement last year with the estate of chimp owner Sandra Herold, who died in 2010. She had sought $50 million.
The settlement agreement filed in Stamford Probate Court calls for Sandra Herold’s estate to provide Charla with $3.4 million in real estate, $331,000 in cash, $140,000 in machinery and equipment and $44,000 in vehicles.
Brenden Leydon, a Stamford lawyer representing Sandra Herold’s estate, had argued that it couldn’t be sued because Charla Nash was an employee of Herold and any claims were a worker’s compensation matter.
Charla Nash now lives in a nursing home outside of Boston. She had gone to Sandra Herold’s home on the day of the attack to help lure Herold’s 200-pound chimpanzee, Travis, back into her home.
But the animal went berserk and ripped off Charla Nash’s nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot to death by a police officer.
Travis had starred in TV 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 Sandra Herold and was fed steak, lobster and ice cream. The chimp could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet and dress and bathe himself.
A month after the mauling, Charla Nash’s family sued Sandra Herold for alleged negligence and recklessness.
The lawsuit alleged Sandra Herold knew Travis was dangerous but failed to confine him to a secure area and allowed him to roam her property.
It also claimed Sandra Herold gave the chimp medication 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.
Charla Nash wants to sue the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which she holds responsible for not seizing the animal before the attack despite a state biologist’s warning it was dangerous.