Liability in Stamford Chimp Attack

by Ryan McKeen

Much is being made of the horrible chimpanzee attack in Stamford this week.

This morning the Hartford Courant has an article about the chimp and prior safety concerns. Link.

The article states that Travis the chimpanzee was “never had anything but love,” “was treated like a member of the family” and was fed “steak, shrimp and ice cream.”

In the inevitable civil litigation that will arise as a result of the issue of whether or not the chimp was a properly cared for likely won’t matter in terms of liability.

I could not find a primate attack case in Connecticut. Other jurisdictions, however, have dealt with this very issue.

Other states have concluded that a chimpanzee’s owner is strictly liable for its action unless the victim brought the attack upon himself.  Courts impose strict liability on the grounds that keeping wild animals in close proximity to people is an abnormally dangerous activity and doing so exposes the community to abnormal risk. Link.

A chimpanzee for purposes of a civil suit would likely be considered a wild animal. The article linked to above details several court decisions that have held chimpanzees to be wild animals for purposes of tort liability.

The fact that the owners of the chimp exercised even the utmost care won’t relieve the owner of liability in such an action and nor should it because keeping a chimpanzee as a pet is likely a criminally stupid idea.