Stamford, Conn. • A settlement agreement calls for a woman disfigured in a chimpanzee attack to receive about $4 million from the estate of the animal’s now-dead owner, according to documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
Attack victim Charla Nash’s brother filed the lawsuit on her behalf in 2009 in state Superior Court seeking $50 million in damages from chimp owner Sandra Herold, who died in 2010. Nash was blinded, lost both hands and underwent a face transplant after being mauled outside Herold’s home in Stamford in February 2009.
Attorney Brenden Leydon, representing Herold’s estate, said the case is "resolved."
"I think it was a fair compromise on all sides," Leydon said.
A lawyer for the Nash family, though, said the money obtained is "an insignificant amount" considering what Nash went through.
Nash had gone to Herold’s home on the day of the attack to help lure Herold’s 200-pound chimpanzee, Travis, back inside. But the chimp went berserk and ripped off Nash’s nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot to death by a police officer. Nash, 57, now lives in a nursing home outside Boston.
Travis had starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola when he was younger and made an appearance on "The Maury Povich Show." The chimpanzee was the constant companion of the widowed Herold and was fed steak, lobster and ice cream. The chimp could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet and bathe and dress itself.
The settlement agreement filed in Stamford Probate Court calls for Herold’s estate to provide Nash with $3.4 million in real estate, $331,000 in cash, $140,000 in machinery and equipment and $44,000 in vehicles.
Lawyers for Nash’s twin brother, Michael Nash, accused executors of Herold’s estate earlier this week of withholding information needed to complete the settlement, according to a court document obtained by the AP.
Leydon said Thursday that his office has since provided the information and the settlement is nearly finalized. He had argued previously that Herold’s estate couldn’t be sued because Charla Nash was an employee of Herold and any claims were a worker’s compensation matter.
Messages were left Thursday for Michael Nash. Charla Nash’s other brother, Stephen Nash, declined to comment.
A month after the mauling, Nash’s family sued Herold, accusing her of negligence and recklessness. The lawsuit alleged Herold knew Travis was dangerous but failed to confine him to a secure area and allowed him to roam her property. It also claimed Herold gave the chimp medication that exacerbated its "violent propensities."
Travis had previously bitten another woman’s hand and tried to drag her into a car in 1996, bit a man’s thumb two years later and escaped from her home and roamed downtown Stamford for hours before being captured in 2003, according to the lawsuit.
The $4 million settlement would cover a small fraction of Nash’s medical costs. Her lawyers have said she requires care and supervision around the clock. She is facing another surgery for hand transplants and will need to be on antibiotics for the rest of her life.
"The money that we have obtained for Charla is an insignificant amount in the scheme of things," the Nashes’ lawyer Charles Willinger said Thursday. "It won’t nearly address her medical needs and her other lifestyle needs, not to mention pain and suffering. That is why we will pursue the entity we think is most culpable, the Energy and Environmental Protection Department of Connecticut, for allowing Sandra Herold to possess the chimp in the first place."
Nash’s family is trying to sue the state for $150 million but is awaiting permission from the state claims commissioner. The state is immune from lawsuits unless they’re allowed by the claims commissioner.
Nash holds the department responsible for not seizing the animal before the attack despite a state biologist’s warning it was dangerous.
"I hope and pray that the commissioner will give me my day in court," Charla Nash told reporters following a hearing in August before Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. "And I also pray that I hope this never happens to anyone else again. It is not nice."
Collins reported from Hartford.
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