Lawsuit Settled against Pittsburgh Zoo after Death of a 2-Year-Old

The New York Daily News reported that the parents of a 2-year-old boy, who fell into a wild African Painted Dog exhibit and was fatally mauled in 2012, have settled their lawsuit against the Pittsburgh zoo. The grizzly death occurred two years ago when the young boy broke free of his mother’s grasp and fell about 10 feet into the enclosed exhibit. The child bounced off a net meant to catch debris and trash and landed in the exhibit, where he was fatally attacked by several dogs.

The family commenced a lawsuit in May 2013 and the zoo vigorously defended the case, countering that the infant’s mother was responsible for his death because she lifted him onto the 4-foot-high railing surrounding the observation platform so that the child could have a better view.

While the details of the settlement were not released, the litigation and strategy surrounding this case centered on the legal issue of “notice.” If the exhibit of the dogs had received complaints of an unsafe habitat for guests of the zoo or if prior incidents had occurred similar to this accident, the zoo may have been held liable. If the zoo knew that guests were not properly protected by the layout and security precautions of the exhibit, a jury could find for the plaintiffs.

If the zoo had no prior complaints or occurrences, another theory for the plaintiffs would be that the exhibit’s design was dangerous and that the accident would never have happened except for negligence regarding the design.

Evidently, the zoo or its insurance companies (that most likely paid the settlement) felt that the case should be resolved.