San Francisco denies liability in tiger attack
Article Launched: 06/30/2008 02:45:21 PM PDT
Family members of a San Jose teen fatally mauled by a Siberian tiger on Christmas Day at the San Francisco Zoo will file a lawsuit against the city as soon as this month, according to their lawyer.
Carlos Sousa Jr.'s family accuses the zoo of wrongful death and negligence in a claim that San Francisco rejected on Friday. The city says Cardoza is going after the wrong agency.
But Cardoza said the city is the responsible party.
"The city ought to build a river though the zoo and call it the moat of denial," Michael Cardoza said Monday. "They didn't underfeed the animal. They denied anything ever happened the first time Tatiana bit somebody. When they undertake to house dangerous animals the law says they are liable."
Late Christmas day, Tatiana, a 250-pound Siberian tiger, leaped from her grotto and fatally mauled the 17-year-old Sousa. Tatiana also seriously wounded two of his friends, brothers Amritpal and Kulbir Dhaliwal, both of San Jose. Police eventually shot and killed the tiger.
According to City Attorney's Office spokesman Matt Dorsey, the denial is a procedural step that referred the claimants to the San Francisco Zoological Society and its insurer. Sousa's attorney can now file a lawsuit within six months.
'It's not a qualitative judgment about the seriousness of the tragedy," Dorsey said Monday. "We're in no way seeking to minimize the terrible loss suffered by the Sousa family."
In May, the city likewise denied a claim filed by attorneys for the Dhaliwals.
After the maulings, San Francisco police investigated whether the young men may have taunted the tiger. On Jan. 29, police suspended the investigation without filing any charges.
Since that time, the zoo has also spent $1.7 million on safety renovations, and the fence now stands at 16.4 feet. It was nearly four feet lower than industry standards.
Carodoza said the city and the zoo and others should stop blaming his client and the two brothers and take a more critical look at themselves.
"We are suing the right people," said Cardoza. "A young man's life taken because of the way that zoo was run. The public should be up in arms."