Associated Press reports:
A Connecticut woman disfigured by a friend’s pet chimpanzee was denied permission Friday to sue the state for $150 million because at the time of the attack, the law allowed private ownership of the animals.
The plaintiff reportedly went over to the owner’s house to help get the chimpanzee back in the house, when the chimp “went berserk and ripped off [the victim’s] nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot to death by a police officer.”
This particular chimpanzee had a history of violent attacks, having bitten two other people in 1996 and 1998. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, while arguing that the state should not be held liable, also admitted that a state biologist warned this animal was an “accident waiting to happen.” After this most recent attack, Connecticut banned private ownership of chimpanzees.
Obviously, any decent person finds this story tragic. The victim is now blind, has endured numerous operations, received a face transplant, currently lives in a nursing home, and will be receiving hand transplants.
On the other hand, is it fair to hold the state accountable for the pain and suffering experienced by the actions of private parties? The victim received a $4M settlement with the estate of the owner, who died in 2010. The courts obviously believe in personal accountability between private individuals.
However, higher courts have consistently found that government agencies aren’t accountable when their actions or inactions contribute to private tragedies. (See DeShaney v. Winnebago and Castle Rock v. Gonzales.)
This story serves as a reminder that the state doesn’t hold itself responsible for your safety. Tell people this story when they say you should give up your guns and just call the police.
When somebody sues the state, they’re suing us: Our taxes pay the settlement. This means that all of us are personally responsible for the actions of private individuals. That’s bad law.
Large settlements like this proposed $150M suit represent massive transfers of our wealth into attorneys’ pockets. In my book 400 Years of Gun Control, I chronicle the story of the tobacco settlement. What was sold to us as a “public safety” issue—remember all the gun control rhetoric? Sound familiar?—was really a scam to steal money from your pockets, whether you smoked or not. After the settlement, attorneys received billions in contingency fees, and curiously enough, attorney campaign contributions tripled in the next election cycle. Transfer of wealth; transfer of power.