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$4m settlement in US chimp attack

30 November 2012, 13:02

Stamford — A settlement agreement calls for a woman disfigured in a chimpanzee attack to receive about $4m from the estate of the animal's now-dead owner, according to documents obtained on Thursday by The Associated Press.

Attack victim Charla Nash's brother filed the lawsuit on her behalf in 2009 in state Superior Court seeking $50m in damages from chimp owner Sandra Herold, who died in 2010. Nash was blinded, lost both hands and underwent a face transplant after being mauled outside Herold's home in Stamford in February 2009.

"The case is resolved," said Brenden Leydon, a lawyer representing Herold's estate. "I think it was a fair compromise on all sides."

Charla Nash, aged 57, now lives in a nursing home outside of Boston. She had gone to Herold's home on the day of the attack to help lure Herold's 90kg chimpanzee, Travis, back into her home. But the animal went berserk and ripped off 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 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.

Withholding information

The settlement agreement filed in Stamford Probate Court calls for Herold's estate to provide Nash with $3.4m in real estate, $331 000 in cash, $140 000 in machinery and equipment and $44 000 in vehicles.

Lawyers for Nash's twin brother, Michael Nash, accused executors of Herold's estate earlier this week of withholding information needed to complete the settlement, according to a court document obtained by the AP.

Leydon said on Thursday that his office has since provided the information and the settlement is nearly finalised. He had argued previously that Herold's estate couldn't be sued because Charla Nash was an employee of Herold and any claims were a worker's compensation matter.

Messages were left on Thursday for Michael Nash and his lawyer. Charla Nash's other brother, Stephen Nash, declined to comment.

A month after the mauling, Nash's family sued Herold, accusing her of negligence and recklessness. The lawsuit alleged Herold knew Travis was dangerous but failed to confine him to a secure area and allowed him to roam her property. It also claimed 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 being captured in 2003, according to the lawsuit.

'It is not nice'

The $4m settlement would cover a small fraction of Nash's medical costs. Her lawyers have said she requires care and supervision around the clock. She is facing another surgery for hand transplants and will need to be on antibiotics for the rest of her life.

Nash' family is also trying to sue the state for $150m but is awaiting permission from the state claims commissioner. The state is immune from lawsuits unless they're allowed by the claims commissioner.

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.

"I hope and pray that the commissioner will give me my day in court," Charla Nash told reporters following a hearing in August before Claims Commissioner J Paul Vance Jnr. "And I also pray [and] hope this never happens to anyone else again. It is not nice."

- AP

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