New York residents may be interested to learn that a volunteer at the Toledo Zoo was injured on Jan. 26 when she approached the feeding area of a group of orangutans. The injuries were non-life-threatening, but the incident may still give New York zoo-goers pause. Many incidents in zoos are preventable, and injuries might arise because of negligence.
The volunteer, together with two paid staff members of the Ohio zoo, was in the feeding area when a 14-year-old male orangutan reached out from its enclosure and grabbed the woman's hand. In a matter of seconds, the volunteer's thumb was bit and detached. The orangutan did not leave its enclosure at any time. Afterward, the volunteer was sent to the hospital for treatment.
The feeding area is not accessible to visitors, so the incident did not pose any threat to the public. According to zoo officials, staff members followed all safety protocols. An internal review will nonetheless be conducted; although, zoo officials stress that the orangutan is not to blame. All the orangutans will remain on exhibit at the zoo with no change to their daily schedules.
Incidents involving animals at a zoo can be covered under premises liability law. For a claim to be valid, it must be shown that the accident could have been prevented were it not for the negligence of the zoo owner or zoo staff. This concerns only claims made by visitors.
Building up such a case could be difficult without legal assistance. Therefore, a victim may want to consult with a lawyer. Legal counsel could hire third-party professionals to gather proof and determine the extent of the injuries. The lawyer can then negotiate for a settlement covering medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and whatever else is applicable.