BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer email@example.com
Jury selection is slated to begin in a civil trial involving California Living Museum and a man attacked by a raccoon during a 2010 visit to the zoo.
Kern County Superior Court Judge Sidney P. Chapin requested a jury panel of 50 be brought to Department 4 Monday morning given the estimated length of the trial and the considerable publicity the attack received. Attorneys have said the trial should last six to eight days.
Greg Muir, attorney for attack victim Ian Smith, said in court Monday that he expects to call about 20 witnesses, including several doctors who are expected to testify about the extent of Smith's injuries and his need for future medications.
Smith filed the lawsuit against the zoo for negligence, and also on behalf of his young daughter, who was with him at the time.
In a 2010 interview with The Californian, Smith said he and his daughter were just walking along when the raccoon came at them. Smith, a trained kickboxer, said he kicked the creature harder than anything he's kicked in his life, and held his daughter away from it as he tried to fight it off.
After tussling with the raccoon for about five minutes, Smith managed to hold the raccoon to the ground and help arrived soon after. The raccoon was euthanized. It tested negative for rabies.
There was some discussion between Muir and Kern County Superintendent of Schools' attorney Michael Kellar regarding what medical evidence will be admissible during trial, and also whether testimony of Smith's daughter, who was 8 years old at the time of the incident, will be admissible. KCSOS manages the museum.
The daughter is autistic, and there are questions about how her autism influenced the way she viewed the attack. Muir spoke briefly about the daughter's difficulty in expressing emotions.
For instance, she was told a series of animals and asked if she was afraid of each one, and each time responded "no." But she also responded "no" when asked if she understood what it meant to be afraid, Muir said.
Smith is suing for more than $25,000 for wage loss, hospital and medical expenses and general damage, according to court documents. The raccoon bit through Smith's finger, and also bit his foot and leg after charging at Smith and his daughter.
Smith says in the court documents that his daughter suffered personal injuries and pain and suffering from witnessing the Jan. 31 attack. He says the zoo and KCSOS had a responsibility to inform visitors of the escape.
CALM officials have said they discovered the raccoon had escaped from its cage but couldn't track it down. They didn't close the museum because there's nothing to stop other animals from coming onto CALM grounds.
Smith was the first person in the zoo's history to be attacked by an animal.