Chimp attack victim wants someone to pay -- and it’s the taxpayers

Charla Nash
Chimp attack victim Charla Nash, center, walks with her daughter Briana and her attorney Charles Willinger before attending a public hearing with Connecticut legislators Friday. The panel is considering a bill that would override the June decision by the state claims commissioner, who dismissed Nash’s initial request for permission to sue the state for $150 million.
(Jessica Hill / Associated Press)

Travis the chimp went crazy in 2009 and tore off Charla Nash’s face and hands. Now, she wants to sue Connecticut for $150 million because, she says, the state was negligent.

Isn’t that a little crazy too?

It’s not that I don’t feel for Nash. She suffered horrible wounds; she is blind, has had a face transplant and underwent unsuccessful hand transplant surgery. All because her friend Sandy Herold of North Stamford, Conn., kept Travis as a pet — a pet that turned on Nash on Feb. 16, 2009, mauling her before being shot to death by a police officer.

Nash sued Herold for $50 million after the attack but received only $4 million in a settlement in 2012, an amount her attorney, Charles Willinger, described as “grossly inadequate to address the pain and suffering Charla has endured ... and does not begin to address Charla’s mounting medical bills and life care needs.”


Which is undoubtedly the case. In fact, no amount of money can really heal Nash’s wounds.

But why is that the taxpayers of Connecticut’s problem?

Here is Nash’s side, according to Reuters news service:

“ ‘I want my day in court,’ said Nash, who is asking lawmakers to pass legislation overruling a June decision by State Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. denying her request to waive Connecticut’s sovereign immunity against lawsuits. ‘This should have never happened…. These kinds of exotic animals do not belong in homes. They need to be in their own environment, and that is where Travis should have been.’


“Her lawyers have said that, before the attack, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment Protection described the illegally owned 200-pound chimp as a serious threat to public safety and an ‘accident waiting to happen.’ ”

So, you see, the attack was more than bad luck. It was also the state’s fault.

Connecticut, of course, disagrees. As Reuters also reported:

“State Attorney General George Jepsen said despite Nash’s ‘horrific injuries,’ she cannot sue the state because it would ‘set a dangerous precedent and open the door to potentially unlimited lawsuits against Connecticut. We must protect the taxpayers.’ ”

Sounds about right to me.

I know that terrible things happen in this world. Sometimes they are accidents. Sometimes, yes, negligence. I’m no lawyer, but I also know that we have laws and courts to decide punishment, blame — and compensation.

But when did we reach the point where every accident is someone else’s fault, and every accident victim deserves whatever compensation a good attorney can win for them? And that the best tactic is to go after the deepest pockets that attorney can find to sue? Including governments, which, after all, are us, or at least, our money.

Nash had the terrible misfortune to be horribly injured, through no real fault of her own. She has suffered, is suffering. And she has had her day in court. She sued. She got $4 million.


That may well not be enough.

But sorry, just because the state of Connecticut has deep pockets doesn’t mean she should be able to pick them.


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