Liability Waiver Blocks Suit for Injury in Chimp Attack

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on August 14, 2012 6:55 AM

The liability waiver that Kristin Howard signed before she was attacked by a chimp prevents her from suing for her injuries, according to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Howard was 10 days into an internship at Chimps Inc., a private chimpanzee sanctuary, when she was attacked by a chimp named Kimie. Howard was cleaning a cage she believed was empty and which staff told her chimpanzees could not get into.

It turns out they could and Kimie attacked Howard and bit off most of her left thumb.

Despite all that, Howard is not permitted to sue. The waiver prohibits it.

Typically waivers protect companies from suit for injuries as a result of the inherent risks of whatever activity is happening. That leaves open the possibility of a suit for negligence if that's the cause of an injury.

But in this case, the waiver expressly says that signers cannot sue even if their injuries are caused by negligence or carelessness by the sanctuary, reports Oregon Live.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the waiver stops any claim Howard could have for her injuries. The court also noted that Chimps Inc.'s policies make it clear that the sanctuary wishes to avoid public scrutiny whenever possible.

It's unclear how important the agreement between the waiver and the policies was to the decision.

What the court did not comment on was whether anyone was at fault. The reasoning for this decision had nothing to do with whether Howard had contributed to her own injuries or whether Chimps Inc. could be found liable in court.

The only issue was the waiver which prevented a suit from going forward in the first place.

For now, the liability waiver has saved Chimps Inc. from public scrutiny through a lawsuit. But Howard could still appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court and until that is settled Chimps Inc.'s attorneys aren't saying anything to the public, reports The Republic.

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