Boy, Mauled by Tiger, Will Get Millions

Times Staff Writer

A 5-year-old boy who was mauled by a tiger at Lion Country Safari two years ago has received a settlement that will pay him from $4 million to more than $20 million during his lifetime, the boy's attorney revealed Friday.

Anthony Stopani was 2 when his mother brought him, his two brothers and others from their home in Upland to the animal park in Irvine on Oct. 23, 1982.

While they waited in the grandstands for an animal show to begin, a Siberian tiger got loose from a cage, grabbed the child by the head and carried him about 50 feet to some brush, where it mauled him.

Skull Punctured

A trainer and his assistant ran to the scene and used a fire extinguisher to spray the tiger in the face while they scooped the boy up and ran to the bleachers, where paramedics treated him.

The boy's skull was punctured and he suffered permanent, mild paralysis on his left side and scarring of his legs, arms and head, said his attorney, Herbert Hafif of Claremont.

Doctors' reports indicate that it will be a few more years before they can determine if the injuries will cause epilepsy, as is possible with such accidents, Hafif said.

The family has since moved to Westminster.

"I wish that this had never happened," Carlos Stopani, the boy's father, said Friday when asked about the incident and subsequent settlement. "But our lawyers did a tremendous job, the other side cooperated and I'm pleased that my son is taken care of for the rest of his life."

Concern About Epilepsy

Stopani said he is worried about the possibility Anthony may develop epilepsy, and commented that while the degree of his son's paralysis has lessened, "there still is a little bit."

"He tends to drag his left foot, and he's very weak on his left side," Stopani said.

The settlement package, made up primarily of tax-free future payments, cost the animal park's insurance carriers between $1.5 million and $2 million, the lawyer estimated.

The agreement provides for the immediate payment of $375,000 to the boy and $200,000 to his parents, Naomi and Carlos Stopani. Two brothers, who suffered emotional distress from witnessing the mauling, will receive $40,000 each when they reach college age, Hafif said.

Anthony Stopani will initially receive a payment of $1,000 a month. The payment will gradually increase each year until he gets $20,000 a month by the time he is 55 or 60, Hafif said.

Additionally, when Anthony reaches 25, he will receive lump-sum payments every five years that will start at $100,000 and increase by $50,000 each payment period until he receives $500,000 at age 65.

Payments are guaranteed for 20 years, by which time $4 million will have been paid. If he should die before then, the remaining portion of that amount would go to his heirs, the lawyer said.

Hafif said he cut his fee to $250,000, payable out of the initial payment of $375,000, because he never had to serve the lawsuit he had filed against the park.

A representative for Protective National of Omaha, who negotiated the major portion of the agreement, was not available for comment, but colleagues confirmed the settlement.

The boy's lawyer praised Protective National of Omaha and the primary insurance carrier, INA Corp., for being "fair-minded" and "very honest and forthright" in handling the claim for damages.

"They started out advancing medical payments so there would be no financial hardship on the parents," he said.

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