STAMFORD, Conn. – The family of a woman mauled by a chimpanzee filed a lawsuit seeking $50 million in damages against the primate's owner, saying she was negligent and reckless for lacking the ability to control "a wild animal with violent propensities."
A relative of Charla Nash, who remains in critical condition, filed the lawsuit against Sandra Herold late Monday in Superior Court in Stamford.
The suit also alleges that Herold had given the chimp medication that further upset the animal. Herold has made conflicting public statements about whether she gave Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, to Travis on the day of the attack. The drug had not been prescribed for the animal, police said.
Herold knew the 200-pound chimp, Travis, was agitated when she asked Nash to come to her house on Feb. 16, the lawsuit said. The suit accuses Herold of negligence and recklessness for owning "a wild animal with violent propensities, even though she lacked sufficient skill, strength and/or experience to subdue the chimpanzee when necessary."
Neither Herold nor her attorney, Joseph Gerardi, immediately returned messages left by The Associated Press on Tuesday morning.
Nash, 55, lost her hands, nose, lips and eyelids and may be blind and suffering brain damage after the attack. 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.
Nash's attorneys have scheduled a midday news conference in Bridgeport to discuss the lawsuit.
They also filed legal papers seeking an accounting of Herold's assets, including six pieces of property she owns and her stake in a Stamford used car dealership. The lawyers also want a court order that would prevent her from selling or mortgaging the assets.
Herold had asked Nash to come to her home in Stamford on the day of the attack 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.
The animal was shot and killed by police, who are weighing whether to file criminal charges against Herold.
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.