Many New Jersey residents may remember an incident involving a Connecticut woman who was grievously injured and maimed during a chimpanzee attack in 2009. Alleging gross negligence on the part of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the 60-year-old woman has petitioned that the state waive its right to sovereign immunity so that she name Connecticut as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. She also issued a statement that emphasized her desire to protect others from attacks by dangerous animals.
The woman's attorneys argue that the state's immunity should be waived in the case so that the woman can hold Connecticut liable for a reported $150 million in damages. In contrast, Connecticut's Attorney General argues that abrogating sovereign immunity would leave Connecticut vulnerable to spurious lawsuits from a multitude of sources and ultimately lead the state to bankruptcy. He maintains that regardless of whether the DEEP could have acted more appropriately in the years and months preceding the attack, it would not be in the public interest or permissible under Connecticut law to grant the plaintiff's petition.
Upon hearing about the case and learning about the details alleging the state's negligence in a presentation, some members of the Connecticut General Assembly's Judiciary Committee suggested that they would continue to discuss waiving immunity. During the presentation, the woman's attorneys noted a number of instances where state officials reportedly failed to take action and allegedly allowed the attack to take place.
New Jersey statutes, like those in Connecticut, protect the state from liability except under certain circumstances. Those individuals who believe they may have a claim against the state or another public entity may confer with an attorney. That attorney could review the relevant statutes and see if it is possible to bring the case to court.