Lawsuit says British Columbia zoo negligent in black bear mauling of toddler's arm

VANCOUVER — A lawsuit filed on behalf of a toddler whose arm was mauled after she reached into a bear enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo alleges negligence led to the attack.

The notice of civil claim filed in British Columbia Supreme Court by the girl's guardian, Richard Hanson, says the August 2019 incident left her with a fractured wrist, and one of her fingers was partially amputated.

The lawsuit filed last month alleges the zoo and K-Bros Developments Corporation, which owns the property in Langley, B.C., owed a duty of care to the child, who was two years old at the time, given their control of the premises and the bears.

It says the girl had reached through an "unguarded chain link fence" at the zoo's black bear exhibit and a "group" of the animals "attacked and mauled" her arm.

BC Emergency Health Services issued a statement shortly after the incident, saying a patient had been airlifted from the zoo in serious condition.

Neither the zoo nor the property owner has filed a response to the lawsuit and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

A representative of the zoo did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

A statement from zoo officials shortly after the incident said it occurred in an area not authorized for public access.

The lawsuit claims the defendants knew prior to the attack that the bears had been "vicious" toward people, with a "propensity" to cause harm, and they failed to take adequate measures to ensure the toddler would be safe at the zoo.

"The fence and/or the bears constituted a hazard" for visitors, it says, claiming the defendants failed to install a "proper barrier" between the bears and the public.

The statement of claim says the zoo failed to provide "any adequate warning of the dangerous conditions" on the premises.

It claims damages for pain, suffering and loss of life enjoyment, loss of income earning capacity and costs of future care for the girl.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2023.

The Canadian Press