The San Francisco Zoo ignored complaints about an emergency response to a 2006 tiger attack on a zookeeper, a former maintenance supervisor claims in a wrongful termination and sexual harassment suit.
Lloyd Kraal, who helped repair the big cat and polar bear grottoes while he worked at the zoo from July 2006 to February 2007, claims he was pushed out of his job after he complained about harassment by his supervisor and raised the safety concerns.
Zoo officials denied his claims and accused the man of exploiting last month's tiger attack, in which the same cat killed a teenager and injured his two friends.
Complaint filed before attacks
Kraal's attorney, Daniel Bacon, said the accusations were already part of a complaint drafted before the Dec. 25 attacks.
"This is not something we did at the last minute," Bacon said of the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
In his suit filed Monday in San Francisco Superior Court, Kraal said he called 911 after the 350-pound Siberian tiger mauled zookeeper Lori Komejan in December 2006 and helped emergency personnel get into the zoo. Five days later, the suit says, Kraal "complained that the zoo's emergency response was sub-standard and resulted in much chaos."
Kraal's recommendations to officials that the zoo re-examine its safety procedures "were ignored and met with angry denials of any need for safety improvements," according to the suit.
The suit also alleges that Kraal, 50, asked the zoo to bring in federal inspectors to consult on his work repairing cracks and holes in the concrete at the zoo's tiger and polar bear exhibits.
The repairs were prompted by a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection, and Kraal says he was seeking "detailed, correct specifications and requirements for the walls of the cat and bear exhibits."
That request was also ignored, according to the lawsuit.
Zoo denies concerns raised
A zoo spokesman said Kraal never raised any safety concerns with zoo officials.
"Unfortunately he may be using this period in time to take advantage of the zoo because of the Christmas incident by making claims ... regarding the safety of the big cat enclosure," zoo spokesman Sam Singer said.
Kraal's suit does not mention the height of the wall surrounding the tiger enclosure, which was found to be 4 feet shorter than recommended.
Tatiana, the tiger that mauled Komejan, apparently leaped or climbed up the wall and killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and mauled brothers Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, and Paul Dhaliwal, 19 on Dec. 25.
A lawyer for the brothers claims the zoo ignored their pleas for help for 30 minutes even though both were suffering from severe bite and claw wounds.
Singer has called the claims made by attorney Mark Geragos "unreliable" because police have not yet concluded their investigation into the attacks.