Judge Denies Pittsburgh Zoo in Child Death from Painted Dogs
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Paul F. Lutty Jr. denied motions made by the Pittsburgh Zoo, including a charge of strict liability and one seeking punitive damages in a lawsuit filed by Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh. The Derkosh’s are the parents of Maddox Derkosh, a 2-year old who fell through an opening at an exhibit at the zoo on November 4, 2012, and fell. The child died when he was mauled by 11 of the wild animals in the pen. Zoo Liability Robert Mongeluzzi, the attorney for the Derkosh’s claim that Matthew visited the monkey house prior to visiting the African painted dogs exhibit, where he interacted with a monkey who was in a glassed cage. Matthew put his hands on the glass and the animal approached from the other side, placing his hands up against the small child’s. When Matthew and his mother visited the African painted dog exhibit, which is not closed off, Matthew lurched out of his mother’s arms and fell through an opening in the display. He says that Mrs. Derkosh did not put the child on the railing as zoo officials claimed, but that he fell from her grasp when he reached forward. Pack Mentality Zoo personnel responded within minutes and seven of the dogs were lured away from the child, while a second group of personnel began throwing objects and shooting dummy tranquilizer rounds at the dogs, getting three more dogs away from the victim. The final African painted dog, which are an endangered species, was shot and killed by two Pittsburgh police officers as it was acting very aggressively toward the victim and personnel. This is the second incident involving the African painted dogs. In the spring of 2012, the zoo was closed when nine of the dogs escaped a section of their enclosure. Judge Decision The zoo requested that the strict liability claim be dismissed as there was no “abnormal risk to the public.” However, the Derkosh’s attorney said that that the family was not suing the zoo for the money, but to be sure that an incident such as this does not happen in the future at the Pittzburgh Zoo, or any zoo. The judge agreed, denying all motions by the zoo except the inclusion of other African painted dog exhibits in zoos around the United States. Judge Lutty denied their use as exhibits in the case. When the negligence of others is suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in an accident that causes injury or death, a liability claim may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding an accident where injuries may have been caused or worsened by the negligence of others.