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Chimpanzee Attack Victim Denied Suit Against State

Tough case teaches certain realities about responsibility, personal safety.

Howard Nemerov


June 15, 2013 - 12:16 pm

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.

Former civilian disarmament supporter and medical researcher Howard Nemerov investigates the civil liberty of self-defense and examines the issue of gun control, resulting in his book Four Hundred Years of Gun Control: Why Isn’t It Working? He appears frequently on NRA News as their “unofficial” analyst and was published in the Texas Review of Law and Politics with David Kopel and Carlisle Moody.

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All Comments   (3)
All Comments   (3)
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One person is stupid enough to own a chimp, moreover a chimp with a history of violence. That same person is stupid enough to have no failsafe for dealing with a tremendously strong and violent animal (ie a shotgun).

A second person is stupid enough to enter the first person's house, even though she has prior warning about all of the first person's stupidity. Having entered the house an utterly predictable tragedy occurs.

I'm sorry, but if I'm neither one of those persons I don't see why any of this should cost me a single nickel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, I fail to see how the state was responsible here. As far as I'm concerned, the individual should have the freedom to do as they wish as long as they don't impact the lives of their fellow citizens in a negative way.

If this were a Bulldog instead of a primate - would that be any different?

While I think the private ownership of exotic animals is a dangerous thing, qualified citizens have been doing it for generations safely. Ringling brothers is not a government agency - yet I believe it's safe to say their animals are kept in good health, not abused, and the public is safe when these animals are on display as part of their act.

When you have an individual who is not able to control the animal - hold the individual responsible. The state is not the one making these decisions and therfore should not be held liable.

To take any other position is to go down the road of the state deciding what activities will be added to last a allowed rather that allowing the individual to exercise the maximum freedom possible.

The individual citizen, however, also needs to understand that with freedom comes responsibility. Simple as that.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Of course the 'state' - which is us - isn't responsible for what private individuals do to each other. However, anti-rights propagandists constantly claim the state will take care of us and protect us from harm, which is all a bunch of compost material. Yet we're still expected to pay taxes for all these alleged services which the state isn't obligate to provide.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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