Connecticut chimp attack victim seeks right to sue state

Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:09pm EDT
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By Richard Weizel

HARTFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - A woman whose face and hands were ripped off by a friend's pet chimpanzee in 2009 came to the Connecticut State Capitol on Friday to ask permission to sue the state for $150 million in damages.

Charla Nash, who has undergone a face transplant and many other surgeries, including a failed double-hand transplant, spoke to the Connecticut General Assembly's Judiciary Committee, her head wrapped with protective white gauze.

"My name is Charla Nash and I'm hoping you can make a decision based on the fact that the state knew what was happening and failed to protect me," said Nash, 60.

Her legal team has said that before the attack, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) had described the illegally owned, 200-pound (90 kilogram) chimp as a serious threat to public safety.

She asked lawmakers to pass legislation overruling a June decision by state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. that denied her request to waive Connecticut's sovereign immunity from lawsuits.

"I want the chance to pay my medical bills and live a comfortable life. But I also want to make sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone else ever again," said Nash, who wore a white hat with ear flaps over the gauze protecting her still-healing head.

She lives in a Boston-area convalescent facility where she is highly dependent on staff.

Nash was at the Stamford home of her friend and employer, Sandra Herold, when Herold's pet chimp, Travis, attacked her, leaving her blind and disfigured. The animal was shot dead at the scene by a Stamford police officer.   Continued...

Charla Nash speaks to the media at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut, March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz