Working alongside 4,000-lb wild animals may seem like an inherently dangerous job. And wildlife lovers may not have a whole lot of sympathy for a zoo employee injured by an animal that has already tried to escape twice and should be roaming free in the grasslands of Central Africa.
But a female zookeeper struck by "Archie's" horn at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is probably just wondering if she can get paid for the time she'll miss work.
Most employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, which reimburses employees for lost wages due to a work-related injury. A "work-related injury" is generally defined as one suffered while doing something on behalf of your employer or otherwise in the course of employment. While most of the injuries classified as work-related occur at the workplace, some covered accidents may occur at other locations or in company-owned vehicles -- as long as the employee was doing something connected to their job.
In this instance, zoo spokesperson J.J. Vitale said the zookeeper was injured when she came into contact with Archie during a routine training session. The zoo's executive director, Tony Vecchio, said zookeepers conduct the sessions with the animals to prepare them for medical exams, and the training generally involves teaching them how to open their mouth and lift their feet on command, as well as submit to blood tests.
While Vecchio also said there is always a safety barrier between the zookeeper and the animal -- and that there were vertical and horizontal bars in between the zookeeper and Archie -- Jacksonville Fire and Rescue confirmed she was transported to the hospital with serious injuries.
Zoo Workers' Comp
Workers' comp covers injuries which can be connected in some way to an employment requirement or condition, so it's likely the zookeeper will be covered in this case. If you're wondering if your work injury falls under workers comp, need help filing a claim, or you've had a workers' comp claim rejected, contact a local attorney for help.
- Find Workers' Compensation Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Worker Injured by Rhino at Florida Zoo (NBC Miami)
- Can I Get Workers Comp If Assaulted at Work? (FindLaw's Injured)
- 10 Injuries That May Not Be Covered by Workers' Comp (FindLaw's Injured)
In 2016, a Connecticut judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre against Remington, the manufacturer of the weapon used in the killings. But this week, the Connecticut Supreme Court revived part of the lawsuit, ruling that federal protections did not prevent the families from bringing a lawsuit based on wrongful marketing tactics, and claims based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices could move forward.
Here's a look at the ruling, and what it could mean for future lawsuits against gun makers.
Laws, Lies, and Liability
The suit was initially dismissed pursuant to the Protection of Lawful Commerce of Arms Act (PLCAA), signed into law by George W. Bush in 2005. In the 4-3 ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court largely agreed with that decision, finding that most of the claims raised by the families were precluded under the PLCAA and a gun manufacturer or dealer cannot be held liable for how a gun is used if the gun was sold legally.
But the parents' lawsuit also attacked Remington's marketing campaign, including ads for the AR-15-style Bushmaster used in the 2012 attack that invoked combat violence and told would-be buyers, "Consider your man card reissued." And the court said the suit could go forward under Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act.
That statute is aimed at harmful marketing and prohibits advertising the use of a weapon as a potential tool for "offensive military style combat" by civilians. Other Bushmaster ads featured soldiers on patrol in jungles along with the phrase: "When you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers." Remington allegedly promoted the rifle to civilians as "the ultimate combat weapons system," and the Connecticut Supreme Court decided that "it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet."
The End of the Road and the End of Immunity?
Appeals are assured and a jury may still find in Remington's favor, so the suit is far from over. But attacking a gun maker's ads through state consumer protection laws may provide gun violence victims a path to compensation that didn't exist before.
- Sandy Hook Massacre: Remington and Other Gun Companies Lose Major Ruling Over Liability (The New York Times)
- Sandy Hook Families Sue Alex Jones and InfoWars for Defamation (FindLaw's Injured)
- Parents of Slain Sandy Hook Students Offer to Settle for $11M (FindLaw's Injured)
- Sandy Hook Lawsuit Would Seek $100M From State (FindLaw's Injured)