HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A legislative committee has ruled against allowing Connecticut chimpanzee attack victim Charla Nash to sue the state and seek financial damages.
The Judiciary Committee voted 35-3 on Wednesday to uphold last year’s decision by state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., who denied Nash’s request to sue the state for $150 million. The state is generally immune from lawsuits unless allowed by the commissioner.
“This process isn’t fair,” Nash said in a written statement. “I wanted a chance to be able to pay my medical bills and get assistance I need to live as normal of a life as possible.”
While not specific about her possible legal options, Nash said she’s not giving up hoping, saying, “This means too much to my daughter Briana and me.” Nash added she’s “heartbroken” over the decision.
Both Vance and state Attorney General George Jepsen maintain the state did not have a duty to protect Nash from the 2009 attack, even though state officials knew about the chimp, kept as a pet by a Stamford woman.
Committee members spoke about how it was difficult to vote against Nash, who impressed the lawmakers with her courage in appearing before the panel during a public hearing last month.
State Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guliford, was among those on the committee to vote against the measure.
“The majority of us felt it was not a public duty … particularly when the chimp did not attack her on state property,” Meyer told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau. “The chimp was, of course, a privately owned chimp. It was not a state chimp.”
Nash said the money she was seeking would’ve helped pay her extensive medical bills and for around-the-clock care.
While she receives Social Security disability and Medicaid payments, Nash’s housing, treatment and meals at the nursing home cost about $16,000 a month, according to her attorneys. That amount does not include outside medical care, medication costs and surgeries.
Nash argued the state had the authority and obligation to seize the dangerous animal.
Travis the chimp lived in Stamford with his owner, Sandra Herold. Nash was mauled Feb. 16, 2009, as she tried to corral the chimp who’d escaped.
Nash was blinded, lost both hands and was maimed in the attack. She underwent a face transplant in 2011.
Nash reached a $4 million settlement in 2012 with Herold’s estate. Sandra Herold died in 2010
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