Friday, May 16, 2008

Family of teenager killed by tiger files negligence claim against S.F.

Family of teenager killed by tiger files negligence claim against S.F.

By Leslie Griffy
Mercury News
Article Launched: 05/16/2008 01:33:47 AM PDT

The family of a teenager killed by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas filed claims against the city alleging negligence was responsible for the attack on the 17-year-old.

Carlos Sousa Jr.'s family is seeking an undisclosed amount of money as compensation for the teen's death. Filing a claim is a required step before the family can file a lawsuit seeking damages.

Sousa, a San Jose resident, was visiting the zoo with two friends on Christmas Day when a Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped her enclosure and attacked the group. Sousa was killed. His friends, Amritpal "Paul" and Kulbir Dhaliwal, also of San Jose, were mauled. Police shot and killed the tiger.

In their claim filed Thursday with the city and county of San Francisco, Sousa's parents allege that the city did not properly house the tiger.

At the time of the attack, the retaining wall in the tiger grotto was about four feet shorter than industry standards. Since then the zoo has spent $1.7 million on safety renovations, including increasing the height of the wall. A national group that accredits zoos concluded in a report that poor training and short staffing added to the tragedy.

One of the claims filed Thursday requests more improvements to the enclosures.

"We want to encourage the city to clean up the zoo so this doesn't happen again," said Michael Cardoza, the attorney for the Sousa family.

The city has 45 days to respond to the claims before the family can file a civil law suit.

A spokesman for the city attorney's office said he had yet to see the claim.

Last week, the city denied claims filed by the two brothers injured in the attack. In that case, the city referred the family to the zoo and its insurance company.

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