The owner of a chimpanzee that mauled and blinded a woman is calling the attack a work-related accident. The owner says the woman’s case should be treated like a worker’s compensation claim. If this strategy is successful, it will drastically limit potential damages in the case and protect the chimp’s owner from personal liability.
The 200-pound chimpanzee got out of control when his owner, Sandra Herold, asked her fellow employee Charla Nash to help lure the animal back into her house. The chimp ripped off Nash’s hands, nose, lips, and eyelids. Nash remains in stable condition at the Cleveland Clinic.
Nash’s family filed a $50 million lawsuit against Herold, saying that she acted with negligence and recklessness in failing to control the wild animal. However, Herold’s attorney says that Nash was working as an employee of Herold’s tow-truck company when the attack occurred. He is arguing that the chimp was an important part of the business, as its picture was on the wrecker, it was at the garage every day, and appeared at numerous promotional events for the company.
The house where the attack happened is a business office of the company. Also, part of Nash’s responsibilities as an employee were to clean the chimp’s play area and purchase supplies for it.
If this case is treated as a workers’ compensation case, Nash will have her medical bills paid for by the employer’s insurance and will receive partial wage replacement. However, if this happens, she will receive no compensation for pain and suffering, which usually makes up a large part of awards in civil cases.
In order to win the case, Herold’s lawyers will need to prove that there was an employer-employee relationship and that Nash’s injuries were work-related.
Source: Associated Press-“Chimp owner: Conn. Woman was mauled on the job”- October 14, 2009.