PITTSBURGH ZOO SUED BY PARENTS OF SMALL CHILD MAULED BY AFRICAN WILD DOGS – LAS VEGAS PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER PAUL S. PADDAFiled under Personal Injury
Parents across the country routinely take their children to the zoo every weekend in an effort to instill an appreciation for nature. However, a routine visit turned tragic for the Derkosh family when 2-year old Maddox Derkosh was mauled to death at the Pittsburgh zoo by a pack of African wild dogs.
Visiting the zoo with his mother, young Maddox fell into the African wild dog exhibit when his mother lifted him above the railing so that he could get a better view. Tragically, he fell into the exhibit housing the wild dogs whereupon they pounced and mauled him to death.
Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh filed a lawsuit this past May alleging negligence on the part of the zoo for failing to provide adequate warning that the space above the railing was unprotected and that a small child such as Maddox could fall into the exhibit. According to the lawsuit filed by the Derkosh’s, the zoo was on “notice” of a dangerous condition given that parents routinely lifted their children above the railing area. The parents also allege Maddox’s death could have been prevented if the zoo had better tranquilizer darts for subduing the wild dogs.
In recently filed court papers, the zoo has fought back claiming that Elizabeth Derkosh was contributorily negligent when she lifted her small child above the railing, which at 42-inches in height complied with applicable building and safety codes. Further, according to the zoo’s court filings, the zoo cannot “control all of the conduct of its patrons while they are on zoo premises.” It also defended itself in court papers by noting that visitors must be “responsible for their safety” and have “a duty to act in a reasonable prudent manner.”
While the zoo has some valid defenses and points in response to the Derkosh’s lawsuit, the tragic fact remains that a small child died needlessly and under exceptionally horrific circumstances. The “failure to warn of a dangerous condition” is a legitimate legal theory that is very applicable in this case and will require resolution by a jury. If in fact the zoo had notice that parents routinely lifted their children above the railing, an area that was unprotected and could lead to a child falling directly into the wild dog exhibit, then a jury could find the zoo liable.