Zoo settles with family of tiger victim

February 17, 2009 12:34:43 PM PST
The San Francisco Zoo has settled a lawsuit with the family of a 17-year-old San Jose boy fatally mauled by an escaped zoo tiger in 2007 for an undisclosed financial sum, the zoo and the family's attorney confirmed Tuesday.

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The wrongful death suit, filed on behalf of Marilza and Carlos Sousa, parents of Carlos Sousa Jr., alleged the zoo and the city were liable for Sousa's killing by the 250-pound Siberian tiger, Tatiana, who leapt out of her enclosure on Dec. 25, 2007.

Tatiana killed Sousa and severely wounded two of his friends, brothers Amritpal Dhaliwal, then 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, then 23, also of San Jose, before being shot to death by police.

While the terms of the settlement were not released, Michael Cardoza, the attorney for the Sousa family, said Tuesday that part of the settlement included the zoo erecting a plaque on a bench at the zoo memorializing Sousa.

"Which the zoo was very willing to do, and they were very generous about that," Cardoza said.

Cardoza said the financial settlement will be paid by the zoo's insurance company and not by the city.

A zoo spokeswoman today confirmed the memorial, but referred all other comment to the zoo's attorney.

The attorney also declined to be interviewed this morning.

Cardoza said the memorial was requested by Sousa's parents and will include a plaque and an etching of Sousa's face.

"And that certainly helped them, because ... there was some segment of the public that was awfully vicious in its comments toward the victim and his family," Cardoza said, adding that Sousa's parents had been "scarred for life" by the events.

"It helps them a lot to resolve the matter," he said.

Following the mauling, police conducted an inquiry into whether the tiger may have been taunted before escaping, and whether drugs or alcohol may have been involved in the incident, but ultimately suspended the investigation without filing any charges against the Dhaliwal brothers.

Attorneys for the Dhaliwal family have filed a separate lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco against the city, the Zoological Society, and a zoo spokesman. That suit claims negligence, civil rights violations and slander by the zoo spokesman.

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