By Calvin Palmer
A lawyer representing the owner of a chimpanzee that savagely mauled a woman is arguing that the attack was a work-related incident.
Charla Nash, 55, was attacked by the 200-pound chimpanzee, Travis, as she helped its owner, Sandra Herold, to try and lure him into her house in Stamford, Connecticut.
The animal ripped off Nash’s hands, nose lips and eyelids, leaving her blind and possibly suffering from brain damage. She remains in a stable condition at the Cleveland Clinic.
Nash’s family filed a $50 million lawsuit against Herold, saying she was negligent and reckless for lacking the ability to control “a wild animal with violent propensities.”
Herold’s attorney, Robert Golger, is claiming Nash was working as an employee of Herold’s tow truck company, Desire Me Motors, at the time of the attack. He argues that Travis was an integral part of the business, saying his picture was on the wrecker, he appeared at the garage daily and he attended numerous promotional events.
So is Golger claiming the attack was a dispute between two employees? When the story first broke, Nash was described as Herold’s friend, with no mention of any employee status.
The house, according to Golger, is a business office of the company. Nash fed Travis, cleaned his play area and purchased his supplies as an employee.
“It’s an unfortunate and tragic accident that happened in the workplace and should be subject to the provisions of the Connecticut workers’ compensation statutes,” Golger said today.
Matt Newman, attorney for Nash’s family, said he disagrees with the argument but declined further comment.
Newman probably declined because his comments would be unprintable.
Under workers’ compensation, Nash would have her medical bills paid for by the employer’s insurance and would receive partial wage replacement, but would not get any money for pain and suffering that makes up a large part of jury awards in civil cases. Workers typically receive 65 to 75 percent of their wages.
The Connecticut legal community thinks Golger could have found a winning strategy for his client.
Paul Slager, an attorney in Stamford, says Golger is making “a pretty creative argument.”
To win the argument, Herold will need to prove there was an employer-employee relationship and that Nash’s injuries were work-related.
Nathan Shafner, a workers’ compensation attorney in Connecticut, called the tactic “a very sellable argument” and thinks it could prevail.
Only in America.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]