Couple awarded 1.7 million for tiger bites at park

Avatar BCR | March 9, 2007 2 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Award stands in tiger-mauling lawsuit


Top court refuses to hear Lion Safari’s appeal of $2.5M award in tiger attack


Mar 09, 2007 04:30 AM

Christian Cotroneo

staff reporter


More than a decade after tigers mauled a Hamilton couple at African Lion Safari, the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal by the drive-through zoo.


As a result, the Cambridge, Ont., tourist attraction will have to pay damages of $1.7 million to David Balac and $800,000 to Jennifer-Anne Cowles, as originally ordered by an Ontario judge in 2005, plus legal costs and accrued interest.


"That’s the end of the road for the African Lion Safari," observed Toronto lawyer Bruce M. Haines, who represented Balac.


But the road may have been longest for Balac and Cowles, who finally have a decision after the 1996 visit to the park shattered their lives.


"It’s been 11 years and (Balac) received nothing in the interim. Now, finally, after the appeal has been disposed of, the judgments will be paid," Haines said.


Court costs and accumulated interest since the original judgment will raise the final figure.


"In the case of Balac, when you figure in everything, it’s likely about $2.5 million, more or less," Haines said. Cowles stands to receive in the neighbourhood of $1.2 million.


Haines, who described his client as "very shy," spoke on Balac’s behalf. "He’s delighted, but it’s been ongoing so long … he’s grateful and he’s bewildered."


On April 19, 1996, Cowles and Balac, then 25 and 23, respectively, drove into the zoo’s carnivore section. According to Court of Appeal documents, the car windows were lowered about the time a Bengal tiger approached the vehicle. It’s not clear whether, as the zoo contended, the passengers had done so to take a picture, or the windows inadvertently came down during the attack, as Cowles and Balac maintained.


The tiger leapt into the car through the passenger-side window, and two others partly lunged into the driver’s-side window. Balac and Cowles suffered catastrophic injuries.


Pregnant at the time, Cowles underwent several reconstructive surgeries and treatment for pain and depression.


For Balac, pulled in different directions by two tigers, the results were even more horrific.


"His life is dominated by pain," Haines said. "The attack happened April 19, 1996, and he’s never been free of pain a day since."



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