TUCSON, Arizona — A Dutch tourist who was attacked by a javelina at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has taken the first step to filing a lawsuit against the Tucson facility and Pima County.
Rene Zegerius has filed a claim for $400,000 over the incident in June, when he was standing along a path inside the museum grounds when a javelina attacked him. The pig-like animal, a member of the peccary family, tore muscle and nerves and severed veins and arteries in his right calf and left hand.
Zegerius spent eight days in a hospital, and says he lost money on hotel and travel reservations. Medical expenses came to $70,000, and a last-minute ticket back to the Netherlands cost more than $15,000. He had to buy a first-class ticket because doctors told him he needed to stay horizontal.
"These were very serious injuries," said Clague Van Slyke, a Tucson attorney representing Zegerius. "It could have been fatal. Fortunately, it wasn't, but he has permanent nerve damage."
Wants only fair compensation
Van Slyke said Zegerius wants only fair compensation for what he has suffered and the money he wouldn't have had to spend if he hadn't been bitten.
Robert Edison, the museum's executive director, said he is certain the javelina that attacked Zegerius did not belong to the museum.
He said officials from the Arizona Game and Fish Department checked every animal for blood or other evidence and found nothing. The javelina that attacked Zegerius was never found.
Van Slyke, who last month filed a claim against Pima County — which owns the museum site — said he does not believe the museum proved that the javelina that attacked his client did not belong to them, and zookeepers have an absolute obligation to keep visitors safe from animals.
"They have a duty to guests to protect them," he said. "They shouldn't have waited for someone to be attacked to take action."
Edison said the museum has wild animals on the grounds all the time because it is part of a natural setting. "Guests are advised of that," he said.
Attorneys from both sides say they hope to resolve the issue without going to trial.
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