It was like a scene from a horror/thriller movie. It was every child’s zoo nightmare translated into gory, grisly reality at the San Francisco Zoo. On Christmas Day, almost at closing time, a Siberian tiger somehow escaped from his grotto and went on a bloody rampage at the zoo’s café, killing one patron and seriously injuring two others, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
CBS.com reported that the San Francisco Police Department has opened a criminal investigation, as Police Chief Heather Fong is reported to have said, “…to determine if there was human involvement in the tiger getting out…” Sounds like the police have some suspicions as to how this happened.
At first authorities weren’t sure which one of the zoo’s five tigers mauled the visitors, but later determined that it was Tatiana, the same 4-year-old Siberian tiger, that had chewed a zookeeper’s arm during an attack about a year ago. Although state investigators determined that the attack was the zoo’s fault because they did not configure the cages properly, the zoo authorities decided not to put down Tatiana because they determined it was a “random attack” and was something that could be fixed with a $250,000 safety upgrade.
The tiger initially attacked and killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. of San Jose near the grotto apparently when the tiger first got out. The tiger then proceeded to attack two other men in the café. The two injured men are brothers from San Jose ages 19- and 23-years-old. Their conditions have been upgraded to stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital after surgery. They suffered deep bites and claw wounds on their heads, necks, arms and hands, said Dr. Rochelle Dicker, a surgeon. She said they were expected to make a full recovery, according to MSNBC.
When four police officers arrived, the tiger that was sitting next to a victim, resuming its attack of the bloodied man. When the tiger made its move toward the officers, they all fired their guns, striking and killing the animal. Officers, who combed the zoo through Wednesday, did not find additional victims.
Here’s the big question: How did a 300-pound tiger climb out of a grotto surrounded by a 15-foot moat and a 20-foot-high wall? Tiger experts say this animal could not have climbed up or jumped over those barriers. Zoo officials say they are baffled by it and are investigating how the tiger got out as are the police.
Fortunately the injured men are now in stable condition although they suffered deep bites and claw cuts to their heads and upper bodies. What a horrible, nightmarish experience for these unsuspecting zoo patrons!
Definitely, the zoo will face liability in this case no matter how the big cat got out. There is no way that the zoo isn’t legally responsible. When dealing with an animal as dangerous as a tiger, all precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of zoo visitors. Anything short and the zoo is liable.
If the tiger escaped from the enclosure on her own, the zoo is liable for not building a safe enough enclosure. If a zoo employee made some type mistake that allowed the tiger to get out, then the zoo is responsible for the negligence of their employee(s). If someone other than a zoo employee let the tiger out or helped it, the zoo is still at fault for its security system being breached.
Unless those that were injured were responsible for the tiger getting out of its enclosure the San Francisco Zoo will be on the hook financially for one man’s death and the mauling of the brothers. The price tag will be in the millions of dollars
The San Francisco Zoo would be well served, both from a public relations stand point and from a financial standpoint by approaching the victims assisting with their expenses and resolving their claims before lawsuits are filed. From a moral standpoint, they should do what is right and take care of those who their negligence harmed, without waiting for a lawsuit. From a financial standpoint, it is generally much easier to deal with injury victims when they feel that the wrongdoer is admitting fault and is willing to make things right, without going through the claims process and filing a lawsuit.
The victims and their families need to keep in mind the narrow window of time available to file a claim against a governmental agency. In California, before suing a governmental agency, like a municipal or county zoo, a formal claim must have been made and rejected. There is only six months to properly make the claim. Then there is six months from the denial of the claim to file a lawsuit. This is much different than the two year statute of limitations that exists in California for personal injury claims.
For more information about claims against governmental agencies, call my office. Don’t be one of the injured victims that come to us past the six month window and have lost all their rights. The six month governmental claim requirement is regularly missed by victims and California attorneys not well versed in governmental claim law and those who do not do immediate investigations into their cases.
Most people we represent have never filed a lawsuit and do not want to be involved in the personal injury litigation process. They just want justice for what they have been put through. When a wrongdoer ignores the people they have harmed, what choice does an injury victim have to get their medical bills paid and to recoup their losses but to seek legal representation and file claims and lawsuits?
Personal injury lawsuits are not caused by the person who was harmed or the attorneys representing them. They are caused by the people responsible for the harm not stepping up and doing what is right and providing compensation to their victims. You don’t hear the “tort reforms” talk about taking responsibility for harm done. They want to blame the victim and their lawyers for lawsuits. They don’t want people and companies held accountable for the harm they cause.