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Family of child sues after fatal zoo accident

In civil court, a wrongful death occurs when an individual is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual. The representatives of the decedent, typically the person's family, bring the wrongful death claim on behalf of the victim. Every state, including Pennsylvania, has its own civil wrongful death statute establishing the appropriate legal procedures for bringing a wrongful death suit against another.

The family of a two-year-old child is suing the Pittsburgh Zoo after the young boy was mauled to death by African wild dogs. The accidental death occurred last November at the zoo's former African dog exhibit. According to news reports, the two-year old was lifted onto the ledge of the exhibit to get a better view when he fell in. The complaint states that the child was torn apart by the dogs in front of his mother.

The family of the young child alleges that zoo officials knew or should have known that parents lifted their children onto the railing overlooking the African dogs and failed to adequately protect them. In addition to the Pittsburgh Zoo, the family has also identified the Zoological Society of Pittsburgh in the complaint. The family is seeking a minimum of $300,000 in damages for what they argue was a preventable accident.

A wrongful death claim can arise in any number of circumstances. To bring a wrongful death action, the plaintiff must show that a person died, that the death was either intended or the result of negligence and that the surviving family has suffered monetary damages as a result of the death. Damages in a wrongful death case can include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages and loss of companionship.

Source: Yahoo News, "Parents sue Pittsburgh Zoo over toddler's mauling death," Jonathan Barnes, May 23, 2013

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