Family of boy mauled by S.F. tiger files suit

The parents of a 17-year-old killed in a tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo last Christmas sued the city and the zoo Tuesday.

Marilza and Carlos Sousa filed a wrongful death suit Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court almost a year after Carlos Sousa Jr. was killed when a Siberian tiger escaped its enclosure.

The suit claims the enclosure’s wall was lower than the recommended national standard and alleges zoo officials ignored employees’ warnings that the wall was not tall enough. The family is seeking unspecified damages.

Their lawyer, Michael Cardoza, said the family hopes they can reach a settlement with the zoo. “It will never bring total closure to this, but it will begin their healing process because they won’t have to relive this again through a lawsuit,” he said.

The 243-pound tiger, Tatiana, also injured the San Jose teenager’s two friends, Kulbir and Paul Dhaliwal, before police shot the animal dead.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said Tuesday the city’s agreements with the nonprofit San Francisco Zoological Society mean the zoo must decide whether to settle.

“We do hope that all of the parties involved in the case can reach a just resolution,” Dorsey said. “We also recognize what a difficult tragedy this has been for the Sousa family and our hearts go out to them.”

Lora LaMarca, a zoo spokeswoman, said Tuesday the zoo had not seen yet the suit and declined to comment on pending litigation.

The Dhaliwals filed a federal lawsuit last month against the police department, the zoo and a public relations firm hired by the zoo in the days after the attack. The brothers claim the zoo started a smear campaign against them.

San Francisco police spent more than a month investigating the maulings while weighing whether to seek criminal charges against the Dhaliwals. In January, the lead investigator said the tiger “may have been taunted/agitated by its eventual victims,” but the department suspended its investigation without recommending any charges.

The zoo will be closed this year on Christmas Day in remembrance of the tragedy.


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