Charla Nash Seeks $150 Million in Damages From State

Mar 21, 2014

Credit Chris Reed/iStock / Thinkstock

As a matter of law, citizens can't sue the state, in order to protect taxpayer money. That's why there is a Claims Commissioner -- a government appointee tasked with deciding when it's "just and equitable" to waive state immunity.

Last June, the Commissioner decided immunity shouldn't be waived for Charla Nash, who is seeking $150 million in state damages.

Nash said Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials should have seized the chimpanzee that mauled her. She testified before the state Judiciary Committee in Hartford on Friday.

"I'm hoping I can have a lawsuit that will allow me the means to pay my medical bills and the chance to live a comfortable life," Nash testified. "Just as important, I want to make sure that what happened to myself never happens to anyone again."

Attorney General George Jepsen said he's sympathetic to Nash's story, but testified that allowing her to sue the state would set a legal precedent opening the flood gates to all types of costly litigation. "Your decision should turn on a legal question, the answer to which is clear, 'Did the state owe a legal duty to protect Ms. Nash from attack by a privately owned chimp on private property?' It did not," he said.

The Judiciary Committee has until April 2 to decide whether or not to overrule the dismissal of Nash's claim and send the issue to the legislature.