Trial scheduled
for injured former zookeeper’s lawsuit against zoo

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in News

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Published on February 29, 2008 with No Comments

By Ari Burack

February 29, 2008

A trial could begin in September in the case of a former San Francisco Zoo zookeeper suing the city after being severely injured in 2006 by the same tiger that fatally mauled a visitor last December.

Lori Komejan, 47, filed a civil lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court in 2007 for unspecified financial damages, after her arms were clawed and bitten by a Siberian tiger named Tatiana during a public feeding event at the zoo on Dec. 22, 2006.

According to her attorneys, Komejan, an accomplished painter, was permanently disfigured, lost some of the use of her right arm, and has undergone multiple surgeries and skin grafts. Damages, which would be determined by a jury if the case goes to trial, could run in the millions, her attorneys said.

A trial in the case was scheduled Thursday for Sept. 2, though a spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office indicated that the private attorney representing the city would likely ask for an extension.

In her lawsuit, Komejan alleges the zoo, which is a public-private partnership between the city of San Francisco and the nonprofit San Francisco Zoological Society, created “a dangerous condition” by failing to install effective safeguards for the tiger cage, which Tatiana was able to reach through and grab Komejan.

Public big cat feedings resumed at the zoo in September after the zoo installed enhanced security measures on and around the individual pens.

However, on Dec. 25, after somehow escaping from her grotto and fatally mauling 17-year old zoo visitor Carlos Sousa Jr. of San Jose and injuring two of his friends, brothers Amritpal Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, Tatiana was shot to death by police.

On Feb. 20, the zoo completed additional security enhancements, including raised grotto walls, glass barriers surrounding the exhibit, and electric wiring along the interior of the grotto’s moat wall. The following day, the big cat exhibit was reopened to the public.

Attorneys hired by the Sousa and Dhaliwal families after the incident have not yet filed suit, according to the city attorney’s office.

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