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Jury sides with Bakersfield zoo in raccoon attack lawsuit

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A Bakersfield zoo for native wildlife known as CALM was anything but for Ian Smith in 2010 when an escaped raccoon charged and attacked him in front of his 8-year-old autistic daughter. 

The facility covered $75,000 in ensuing medical bills for the first year after the attack, but it apparently wasn't enough, and Smith filed a lawsuit seeking more compensation. The California Living Museum contended there was no way to know the raccoon, which had escaped seven hours earlier that day, would return -- with a vengeance.

The raccoon -- which had only been at CALM for about a month -- charged and attacked Smith on Jan. 31, biting his foot, leg and through his finger. The attack lasted for five minutes until Smith was able to pin the raccoon down and help arrived, the Bakersfield Californian newspaper reported.

The raccoon, which tested negative for rabies, was euthanized.

In suing the facility, Smith reportedly argued he had ongoing nerve damage from the incident.

Michael Kellar, an attorney for the Kern County superintendent of schools office, which owns CALM, told the Bakersfield paper that his client had paid Smith's first year of medical bills "as a show of faith," but he wasn't satisfied.

"I believe it was the correct decision," Kellar said of the jury's verdict. "It's our belief there was no substantial risk of harm on that day. CALM personnel believed the raccoon had left the grounds."

Last year, a judge declared a mistrial when a jury voted 9-3 in favor of Smith and his contention that a dangerous condition existed at CALM at the time of the attack, but could not reach consensus on the issue of liability.

Neither Smith nor his attorney could be reached for comment by the paper.

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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