Claim filed against SF in tiger attack case

March 31, 2008 9:15:50 AM PDT
The brothers who survived the Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo, filed a claim against the city.

It's a rare move -- not only are the Dhaliwal brothers of San Jose claiming the zoo and the city were negligent, they're also claiming they've been defamed.

Ironically, the legal filing comes just one day after one of the brothers was arrested.

One of the brothers was arrested on Thursday night for shoplifting, and coincidentally, the City Attorney's Office on Friday received a claim filed by their lawyer Mark Geragos.

It came as no surprise, everyone expected it, the only question was when.

Amritpal and his brother Kulbir Dhaliwal filed their long awaited claim against the city of San Francisco.

The brothers were injured during the Christmas Day attack by Tatiana the Siberian tiger. Their friend Carlos Sousa was mauled to death.

The claim, which was filed by their Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos, says the two suffered serious physical and emotional injuries.

The claim also says the zoo was negligent.

Tatiana got out by scaling the wall of the big cat grotto. The zoo later admitted the walls were shorter than the nationally recommended standard of 16 and half feet.

The big cat grotto has since been upgraded. Most legal analysts we spoke with believe this is a case of strict liability.

"There is an issue called strict liability which basically means if it happened there is liability. Period," said San Francisco Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey.

In other words, under strict liability no matter what happened, Tatiana should never have been permitted to escape.

Lawyers for the city and the zoo would like to know if the Dhaliwal brothers provoked the tiger in someway.

That may reduce the amount of money a jury awards the plaintiffs. That mitigating law is called contributory negligence.

"So for example, if a jury in that tiger were to say the award is $10 million dollars, the zoo was 90 percent at fault, the Dhaliwal brothers were 10 percent at fault then the zoo would have to pay $9 million dollars," said ABC7 Legal Analyst Dean Johnson.

Geragos also singles out public relations consultant Sam Singer, who was hired by the city after the attack.

The brothers claim he defamed them, Singer responded this way.

"If he thinks his clients have been harmed, it must be by their own actions. Certainly it not by any information that we provided on that tragic Christmas Day," said Singer.

Coincidentally last night, 19-year-old Amtritpal Dhaliwal was arrested at a Target store in San Leandro and charged with petty theft.

Police say he was trying to steal a pair of controllers from a popular video game system called the Nintendo Wii.

What's the amount of money the Dhaliwal brothers are asking for? The claim leaves that open. The City Attorney now has 45 days to either offer a settlement, or reject it.

If the City Attorney rejects it, Geragos has six months to file a lawsuit. Coincidently we called his office for a comment and he declined.


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