Family of Connecticut Chimp Attack Victim seeks $50M

March 18, 2009

The family of a Connecticut woman mauled by a chimpanzee last month filed preliminary legal papers seeking $50 million in damages against the primate’s owner.

Relatives of Charla Nash filed the legal papers, which are prelude to an expected lawsuit, against Sandra Herold late Monday in Superior Court in Stamford. The papers seek an accounting of Herold’s assets and a court order that would prevent her from selling or mortgaging them, including six pieces of property she owns and her stake in a Stamford used car dealership.

Nash, 55, lost her hands, nose, lips and eyelids and may be blind and suffering brain damage after the attack on Feb. 16 in Stamford. She is being treated at the Cleveland Clinic and remained in critical condition Tuesday.

“No amount of money can compensate my sister for the injuries she has suffered,” Nash’s brother Michael, the appointed conservator of his sister’s estate, said in an affidavit.

Neither Herold nor her attorney, Joseph Gerardi, immediately returned messages left by The Associated Press on Tuesday morning.

Nash’s attorneys held a midday news conference in Bridgeport to discuss the filing.

The 200-pound chimp, Travis, was shot and killed by police. Authorities are weighing whether to file criminal charges against Herold.

Herold had asked Nash to come to her home to help lure Travis back into her house. Herold has speculated that the chimp was trying to protect her and attacked Nash because she had changed her hairstyle, was driving a different car and was holding a stuffed toy in front of her face to get Travis’ attention.

Two other people have said that Travis bit them, in 1996 and 1998. A former animal control officer has said that she warned Herold after a 2003 escape that the pet’s behavior was worrisome and she needed to keep it under control.

April Truitt, who runs the Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky, has said she warned Herold of the dangers of keeping the animal in her home. She said she pleaded with Herold to consider placing the chimp in a sanctuary, but Herold was not interested, saying: “You don’t know my Travis.”

When he was younger, Travis starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola, made an appearance on the “Maury Povich Show” and took part in a television pilot.

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