Parents of Girl Mauled by Mountain Lion Sue County

Times Staff Writer

Don and Susan Small, parents of a 5-year-old girl who was mauled by a mountain lion in Caspers Regional Wilderness Park earlier this year, are seeking $28 million in damages from the county, alleging that officials failed to warn visitors of wildlife hazards in the park.

Small said Thursday that his daughter, Laura, has been through surgery six times in the last several months.

“She’s showing some gradual improvement,” he said. “She can walk with a brace, but she has very little use of her right arm. She had an operation on her eye two weeks ago, and so far so good.”

Laura’s spirits “are reasonably good, but she gets frustrated with her disability,” he added. The county has 45 days to accept or deny the Small’s claim.


Richard J. Staskus, the Small’s attorney, said the county failed to warn visitors of the wildlife danger and therefore negligently managed the park.

“It’s like Russian roulette,” Staskus said. “They’re letting people in that park not knowing its a mountain lion habitat. The mountain lions have been there for thousands of years.”

Staskus added that the combination of visitors and wildlife means that “sooner or later, you’re going to have an attack.”

The claim demands $20 million for Laura, $3 million for each of her parents, and $2 million for her 9-year-old brother, David.


Laura spent more than one month in a hospital, Small said, adding: “She’s home now; she’s going to school five days a week to a school in Dana Point for children with exceptional needs.”

He also noted that Laura is receiving physical, speech and occupational therapy there.

Small, pointing out that his wife was hospitalized recently for stress, said, “It’s rough. We’re surviving day to day; that’s all we can do.”

The father added that his family has received thousands of cards and letters from people across the country wishing them well.