SF tiger attack victim's family sues

December 23, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The parents of the 17-year old who was killed by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo last Christmas has filed suit. The family is seeking an undisclosed sum from the city and the zoo.

"With the loss of a child do they simply say, 'gee, we're sorry, forgive us,' and we all go home? It doesn't work that way," attorney Michael Cardoza said. Cardoza is representing the Sousa family.

On Christmas night last year a 350-pound Siberian tiger escaped from her zoo enclosure and then mauled and killed the Sousa's only son, 17-year-old Carlos Jr.

The tiger, Tatiana, was shot to death by police after the attack and Tuesday the family filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco and the San Francisco Zoological Society, which operates the zoo,

"There is no way to replace a child," Cardoza said. "For people who have children the loss is immeasurable. The law only allows one thing, that's a monetary apology."

Cardoza has looked into how large that monetary apology should be.

"We've looked at jury verdicts that that means past juries in situation and they run from $3 million on up for the loss of a child," Cardoza said.

The lawsuit contends that the "defendants knew that the Siberian tigers' enclosure was insufficient and thereby knowingly exposed San Francisco Zoo patrons to extremely dangerous wild animals."

They also allege that Tatiana was a dangerous animal proven by a prior attack on a trainer that resulted in the trainer losing an arm.

The lawsuit also names the city.

"It's our understanding that the zoo and its insurer are going to be defending the city in the litigation," San Francisco city attorney's office spokesperson Matt Dorsey said.

The city leases the land and zoo to the zoological society and says the suit is the zoo's responsibility.

The tiger enclosure has been redesigned. It now has armored glass and an electric fence.

Visitors at the zoo Tuesday had differing thoughts on the lawsuit.

"I feel for the animals and the families but there just is no way it should have gotten out," zoo visitor Joanne O'Neil said.

The family of the two brothers that accompanied Sousa to the zoo last Christmas and were also injured in the attack is also suing the zoo.

While not addressing the lawsuit, the zoo stands by the changes made after the attack and assures visitors it is safe, though officials decided to close the zoo this Christmas.


Load Comments