A woman who was mauled by a chimpanzee is trying to sue the state of Connecticut and has implicated Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Charla Nash was attacked and severely injured by the chimp when it broke free from the home of Sandra Herold, the chimp's owner. So how does the Governor fit in? Malloy reportedly knew the animal was dangerous, Nash told the Hartford Courant. Nash said Malloy, as then mayor of Stamford, Conn., knew Herold possessed the chimpanzee back in 2003, when it first escaped her custody.
Nash's attorneys face an uphill battle to get permission to sue the state. Why? Due to sovereign immunity.
The doctrine of sovereign immunity holds that the government and its employees cannot be sued without its consent. The doctrine stems from the ancient English principle that the monarch can do no wrong.
Connecticut's sovereign immunity is very much in play here.
Nash has a $50 million lawsuit pending against the estate of Herold, who died in May 2010, the Courant reports. Her pending request to sue the state of Connecticut for $150 million is where Gov. Malloy enters the picture.
Nash claims Malloy allowed Herold to take the chimp back to her home after it escaped in 2003. Malloy then reportedly warned Herold that "if [the chimpanzee] got loose again, they were going to shoot him," the Courant reports.
Malloy's senior adviser told the Courant that Malloy may have met and spoken with Herold in the past, but never talked about the chimpanzee's escaping.
The attorney general's office has said it was "unclear" whether any state official had the authority to "remove a privately owned chimpanzee," the Courant reports. Nash's lawyers, meanwhile, say the state was "mandated by statute" to remove the animal, but did nothing.
This case is a tricky one, to be sure. The Connecticut office of the state's attorney general has twice opposed Nash's request for permission to sue. The state's claims commissioner will rule on the request.
Nash, for her part, told the Courant she hopes to "get my day in court." She will first have to navigate the complicated (and often lengthy) procedure of pursuing permission to sue a state. It can be done, but it's never an easy procedure.
[3/28/12 12:15 p.m. PST Editor's note: This blog post was corrected to clarify the legal procedures involved in suing a governmental entity and that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy himself was not sued. Rather, the victim has applied for permission to sue the state of Connecticut.]
- Victim of chimp attack says Conn. gov knew of danger (Boston Globe)
- The Nature of the States' Immunity (FindLaw)
Suits Against States (FindLaw)