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Filed 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 reasonably 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 noticed 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.

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Paul Padda, a former federal prosecutor, is the founder of Paul Padda Law: a law firm based in Las Vegas Nevada representing plaintiffs throughout the nation in personal injury and other civil cases. With over 15 years experience litigating in federal and state court, Paul has a proven track record of success, including obtaining one of the largest jury verdicts in Nevada history. A first generation American, Paul is dedicated and committed to helping his clients navigate the legal system and take on large and powerful interests. A lawyer who truly cares, Paul provides individualized and compassionate attention to each and every one of his clients.

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