Louisiana residents may have heard that on December 30, 2018, a lion escaped from a locked space at the Conservators Center located in Burlington, North Carolina, and killed a 22-year-old intern. The intern, a graduate of Indiana University, had been employed at the zoo for approximately two weeks when she was killed.
The fatal event occurred around 11:30 a.m. E.T. during a routine cleaning of the animal enclosure. A husbandry team was carrying out the cleaning under the supervision of a trained animal keeper. It is not yet known how the lion left the space in which it was enclosed. The Conservators Center is currently investigating the incident and will remain closed until further notice. Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed the lion.
The Conservators Center houses around 80 animals from 20 species and sees more than 16,000 visitors every year. Of those 80 animals, around 20 are big cats, including lions, leopards and cats. Back in 2004, the zoo obtained 14 lions and tigers that were confiscated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of an effort to retrieve animals living in unacceptable conditions.
In a case like this, the family of the victim or another eligible dependent could file a wrongful death suit against the zoo if it turns out that the accident was preventable. Under premises liability law, property owners have a duty of care to lawful entrants, which includes employees and customers alike. Failure to uphold that duty is negligence.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated, especially since Louisiana holds to the relatively short one-year statute of limitations for them. This is where an attorney can come in, evaluate the case, hire investigators to build up the claim and begin negotiating for an out-of-court settlement. If one cannot be achieved, the plaintiff can litigate.
Source: NBC News, “ Escaped lion kills 22-year-old intern at North Carolina zoo,” Janelle Griffith, December 30, 2018