New York residents who work in zoos know that certain animals can be dangerous. In December of 2018, an intern at a North Carolina zoo was killed by a lion that somehow left its enclosure. In mid-January 2019, another incident, though non-life-threatening, occurred; a volunteer at the Toledo Zoo had her hand bitten and her thumb detached by a 14-year-old orangutan.
The volunteer was with two paid staff members while she was in the area where orangutans are fed. This area is closed to visitors, so the public was in no way endangered. During the feeding, the orangutan reached out through the mesh enclosure at the volunteer. The incident was over in a matter of seconds, but the volunteer still needed to be taken to the hospital for treatment.
An internal review will be made; although, zoo officials emphasize that the orangutan wasn’t at fault. Those who are familiar with orangutan behavior know that the animals have a habit of sneaking their fingers through enclosures to grab at things.
The orangutan continues to be on exhibit at the Toledo Zoo. Officials have not made any changes to the animal’s daily care and schedule.
Though details are sparse, this incident probably could not form the basis for a premises liability claim. Such claims only work when there is a negligent property owner to blame. It could be that the staff members were not properly trained on how to stay safe around the animals, but from what the zoo officials say, this may not be the case.
However, if victims can show that their injuries could have been prevented were it not for someone else’s negligence, they may be eligible for compensation. A lawyer could assist with the filing of a claim, the negotiating for a settlement and, as a last resort, litigation.