Parents of Tiger Mauling Victim File Wrongful Death Claim Against San Francisco

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The parents of a teenager killed by an escaped tiger at the San Francisco Zoo filed a claim against the city Thursday, seeking monetary compensation for the fatal mauling of their 17-year-old son.

Carlos Sousa Jr. died on Christmas Day when a Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped its enclosure and attacked the San Jose teenager and two of his friends. Kulbir and Paul Dhaliwal were injured before the tiger was shot dead by police.

Sousa's parents, Carlos and Marilza Sousa, allege the city did not properly house the tiger, noting that the enclosure failed to meet height standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which accredits U.S. zoos.

The city of San Francisco "knew the tiger's enclosure was insufficient and thereby knowingly exposed zoo patrons to extremely, dangerous wild animals," according to the claims filed Thursday with the city controller's office.

In addition to financial compensation, Sousa's family wants the city to make sure all enclosures at the San Francisco Zoo meet standards set by the AZA.

The city has 45 days to respond to the wrongful death and negligence claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, said the family's attorney, Michael Cardoza.

"They didn't house the animal properly, so they are responsible for both the death of Carlos Sousa Jr. and the tiger," Cardoza said. "If they had done their job properly, neither one of them would be dead."

In the claim, Sousa's parents say they haven't been able to complete their own investigation into the attacks because the police department has not released reports or investigative information related to the incident.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera declined to comment on the claim filed Thursday because he had not seen it.

Last week, the city denied claims filed by the Dhaliwal brothers, who allege negligence and defamation and seek monetary compensation for "serious physical and emotional injuries."

Herrera's office said an investigation into the attacks found that the city was not liable for injuries suffered by the two brothers. It said the claims should be referred the San Francisco Zoological Society, which manages the zoo, and to the society's insurance company.

Mark Geragos, an attorney for the Dhaliwals, said last week that he expects to file a lawsuit soon.