Charla Nash Wants Her Day in Court

Mar 31, 2014

Charla and Briana Nash
Credit Shelly Sindland Photography

Charla Charla Nash was attacked by a 200-pound chimpanzee in February of 2009, while helping her employer, Sandra Herold, get her pet, Travis, back in his cage.

Nash says she was unaware of the danger that lurked.

She doesn't remember anything about the attack, just waking up in the hospital. Travis broke most of the bones in her face, he ripped off her lips, nose, eyelids, and her hands, leaving Nash in a coma for four months. Today, she's blind and lives in a rehabilitation facility at a cost $16,000 per month, an expense she'll have for the rest of her life.

Nash wants to sue the state for neglecting to protect her but is limited by a law preventing lawsuits against the state without prior approval from the Connecticut claims commissioner. Her claim was denied and now she's appealing to the General Assembly.

Nash's attorney, Charles Willinger, a partner at Willinger, Willinger, and Bucci in Bridgeport, says that shortly before the attack, DEP specialist Elaine Hench, told superiors that Travis "was an accident waiting to happen." But, officers from DEP's law enforcement division told her they didn't have the knowledge or resources to handle an animal with the size and power of Travis and nothing was done.

This is the 911 call from Herold as she begged for help for her friend.

Attorney Willinger says the General Assembly can grant permission to sue the state if they find the case is "just and equitable," and her claim presents "an issue of law or fact under which the state, were it a private person, could be liable." 

The Judiciary Committee expects to rule this week on whether the General Assembly will hear her claim. Nash isn't sure which way they'll vote but hopes to have her day in court.