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Chimp attack victim who required face transplant wants to sue state




Charla Nash (L) speaks to the media, next to her daughter Briana Nash, at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut March 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)


Richard Weizel, Reuters

Mar 21, 2014 , Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

HARTFORD, Conn. - A woman whose face and hands were ripped off by a friend's pet chimpanzee in 2009 came to the Connecticut State Capitol on Friday to ask permission to sue the state for $150 million in damages.
Charla Nash, 60, who has undergone a face transplant and many other surgeries, including a failed double-hand transplant, spoke to the Connecticut General Assembly's Judiciary Committee.
"My name is Charla Nash and I'm hoping you can make a decision based on the fact that the state knew what was happening and failed to protect me," said Nash, her head wrapped with protective white gauze.
Her legal team has said that before the attack, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) described the illegally owned, 200-pound (90 kilogram) chimp as a serious threat to public safety.
She asked lawmakers to pass legislation overruling a June decision by state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. denying her request to waive Connecticut's sovereign immunity from lawsuits.
"I want the chance to pay my medical bills, and live a comfortable life. But I also want to make sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone else ever again," said Nash, who wore a white hat with ear flaps over the gauze protecting her still-healing head.

A combination photo shows face transplant recipient Charla Nash, of Stamford, Connecticut, before her injury and after her surgery, in these photographs released on August 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Brigham and Women's Hospital/Handout)
She now lives in a Boston-area convalescent facility where she is highly dependent on staff.
Nash was at the Stamford home of her friend and employer, Sandra Herold, when Herold's pet chimp, Travis, attacked her, leaving her blind and disfigured. The animal was shot dead at the scene by a Stamford police officer.
Her lawyer, Charles Willinger of Bridgeport, insisted that his client has the right to have her day in court.
"The facts you will shortly hear - and these are facts that will shock you - demonstrate the failure and omission of a state agency to properly and legally protect the public. What you will hear will be upsetting and appalling," Willinger said.
Her legal team has argued that she has the right for a court to decide whether to find the state negligent, despite Connecticut's sovereign immunity law, which makes it difficult to sue the state in such cases.
But state Attorney General George Jepsen said that allowing Nash to sue the state would "open the floodgates for unlimited lawsuits and liability that would bankrupt the state" and lawmakers should reject her request.
"Regardless of the extent of Ms. Nash's injuries, or whether in hindsight, DEEP could have done things differently or better, the law does not support this claim. Nor is it in the public interest to grant it," Jepsen said at the hearing.
Nash filed a lawsuit against Herold, who died in 2010. In 2012, a settlement was reached in the amount of $4 million, nearly the entire amount of Herold's estate.
Willinger said Connecticut is one of only several states in the country that maintains sovereign immunity, and the only one where a single claims commissioner makes the decision.
"This case is about the systemic, institutional gross negligence of the Department of Energy and Environment Protection, from the commissioner all the way down to its police force," Willinger said. "What we're asking for is to let a court of law decide whether the DEEP was negligent."



Chimp attack victim who required face transplant wants to sue state


Well, definitely not the kind of lawsuit that one would call 'frivolous'. And I'm not sure about this whole 'sovereign immunity' thing, seems like that would leave it open for a level of government (who really aren't a trustworthy lot on the best of days) to really screw people over without repercussions. Did they do so in this case? I don't know, I guess it would depend on what they knew, how serious they knew the potential for real harm was and whether they could and should have acted before anyone was harmed. Either way, have to feel for this woman, she's got a hard, hard life ahead of her.