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Intern Injured in Chimp Attack Can't Sue

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

A chimp attack four years ago cost Kristin Howard most of her left thumb but the Oregon Court of Appeals recently ruled that she has no right to sue.

Howard was less than two weeks into her internship at Chimps Inc. when she was attacked by a chimp named Kimie. Chimps Inc. is a private sanctuary for chimpanzees who previously worked in some form of entertainment.

Howard's injury is real but the court still said she can't file suit, even for her medical bills.

The reason? She signed a liability waiver.

To work at Chimps Inc., Howard had to sign a waiver that said she wouldn't file suit even if she was injured due to the negligence or carelessness of staff, reports Oregon Live.

Because of that waiver, the court found that Howard could not sue for an accident that was likely caused by staff negligence.

Howard was injured while cleaning an empty cage. Another employee had told her chimpanzees couldn't get in because the overhead tunnels leading to the cage were locked.

But the tunnels weren't locked and a chimp came in and started biting Howard.

Injuries from animals are generally the responsibility of the animal's owner or caretaker. Courts often rule that negligence in caring for the animal or in ensuring that it doesn't attack can result in liability for any injuries caused.

When the animal is an inherently dangerous wild animal, such as a chimpanzee, most courts apply strict liability. Under that standard the owner or caretaker is liable for injuries even if there is no negligence since the risk of harm is so high when a wild animal is around people.

But most pet owners also don't make visitors sign waivers.

In most cases, liability waivers also don't cover injury due to negligence. Unfortunately for Howard this one did.

Chimp Inc.'s attorneys did not comment on the ruling, saying that it's still possible an appeal could be filed to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Howard's injury isn't the first chimp attack at the sanctuary, which tries to avoid public scrutiny, reports KTVZ. At least five employees have been attacked by chimps before, according to court documents.

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