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San Diego Zoo Safer Than Ever

Craig McClellan

San Diego Zoo is now the first zoo in America to be viewable through Google's online street-view feature. Animal lovers can see many of their favorites, including tigers, giraffes and elephants, simply by the click of a mouse (no pun intended).

In an interesting way, this new initiative makes the already-safe San Diego Zoo even safer, allowing for viewing of animals from the safe distance of one's home. San Diego Zoo, one of the most frequented zoo's in the world, has operated since 1922 without notable incident, despite the fact that it features many dangerous animals. San Diego Zoo's tigers and lions, however, are held in cages behind thick glass.

Unfortunately for San Francisco Zoo, the same cannot be said. On Christmas Day 2007, three young men were attacked, one fatally, by Tatiana, a tigress that scaled a wall at the San Francisco Zoo. San Jose brothers Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23 and Paul Dhaliwal, 19, survived the attack, but their friend, Carlos Sousa, 17, was mauled to death. The tiger attack subsequently led to a bitter legal battle, with actions against the zoo for personal injury, wrongful death and defamation.

Essentially, the Dhaliwal brothers' personal injury attorney claimed the brothers had been defamed by the zoo, after the zoo's public relations consultant made statements to the extent that the brothers were taunting the animal. The attorney also sought damages for the injuries suffered by the brothers, both physical and emotional.

Even if the brothers had been taunting the tiger, a claim which the brothers' attorney vehemently denied, the wall for the enclosure was too low. In fact, the wall was only 12.5 feet, 4 whole feel lower than the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommendation of 16.5 feet.

Although premises liability cases are commonly referred to as "slip-and-fall" cases, the San Francisco Zoo case is a textbook example of a premises liability case. The concept generally holds the owner or operator of a property responsible for any injuries that occur on that property.

At the culmination of the case, the zoo settled with the brothers for $900,000 before trial. The zoo also settled with the parents of the deceased victim, Carlos Sousa, for an undisclosed amount.

Luckily for San Diego Zoo, no San Diego personal injury attorney has ever been retained in any notable case against the zoo. And with each new panda bear born and each new technological development, San Diego Zoo remains one of the safest and finest zoos in America.