Settlement Reached In Conn. Chimp Attack Lawsuit

By: CBS/AP (posted by Carissa Fox)
By: CBS/AP (posted by Carissa Fox)
Lawyers for a woman mauled by a chimpanzee in Connecticut have agreed to a settle a lawsuit against the estate of the primate

Charla Nash sits before a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., on Aug. 10, 2012. Nash who was mauled in a 2009 chimpanzee attack is attending a hearing to determine whether she may sue the state for $150 million in claimed damages. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

HARTFORD, Conn. Lawyers for a woman mauled by a chimpanzee in Connecticut have agreed to a settle a lawsuit against the estate of the primate's now-dead owner, according to court documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Attack victim Charla Nash's brother filed the lawsuit on her behalf in 2009 in state Superior Court seeking $50 million in damages from chimp owner Sandra Herold, who died in 2010. Nash was blinded, lost both hands and underwent a face transplant after being mauled outside Herold's home in Stamford in February 2009.

Lawyers for Nash's twin brother, Michael Nash, accused executors of Herold's estate earlier this week of withholding information needed to complete the settlement, according to a court document obtained by the AP.

An attorney for Herold's estate said Thursday that his office has since provided the information and the settlement is nearly finalized. He declined to elaborate and said the settlement will be confidential.

"The case is resolved," said Brenden Leydon, a Stamford lawyer representing Herold's estate. "I think it was a fair compromise on all sides."

Leydon had argued that Herold's estate couldn't be sued because Charla Nash was an employee of Herold and any claims were a worker's compensation matter.

Messages were left Thursday for Michael Nash and his lawyer. Charla Nash's other brother, Stephen Nash, declined to comment.

Charla Nash, 57, now lives in a nursing home outside of Boston. She had gone to Herold's home on the day of the attack to help lure Herold's 200-pound chimpanzee, Travis, back into her home. But the animal went berserk and ripped off Nash's nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot to death by a police officer.

Travis had starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola when he was younger and made an appearance on the "The Maury Povich Show." The chimpanzee was the constant companion of the widowed Herold and was fed steak, lobster and ice cream. The chimp could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet and dress and bathe himself.

A month after the mauling, Nash's family sued Herold for alleged negligence and recklessness. The lawsuit alleged Herold knew Travis was dangerous but failed to confine him to a secure area and allowed him to roam her property. It also claimed Herold gave the chimp medication that exacerbated his "violent propensities."

Travis had previously bitten another woman's hand and tried to drag her into a car in 1996, bit a man's thumb two years later and escaped from her home and roamed downtown Stamford for hours being captured in 2003, according to the lawsuit.

Nash' family is also trying to sue the state for $150 million but is awaiting permission from the state claims commissioner. The state is immune from lawsuits unless they're allowed by the claims commissioner.

Nash wants to sue the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which she holds responsible for not seizing the animal before the attack despite a state biologist's warning it was dangerous.

"I hope and pray that the commissioner will give me my day in court," Charla Nash told reporters following a hearing in August before Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. "And I also pray that I hope this never happens to anyone else again. It is not nice."

Nash's outlook improved after undergoing a face transplant in 2011.

"I will be able to smell," Nash said in a written statement after the surgery. "I will be able to eat normally. I will no longer be disfigured. I will have lips and will speak clearly once again. I will be able to kiss and hug loved ones."

Court documents obtained by the AP on Thursday show the settlement between Nash's family and Herold's estate was approved Sept. 25 by the Stamford Probate Court and the two sides met Nov. 13 to finalize it.

A lawyer for Michael Nash, Matthew Newman, said in a court document filed Tuesday that since Nov. 13, "executors have failed and refused to provide information necessary to complete the settlement."

Leydon said Thursday that Newman now has the needed information.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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