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Thursday, Feb 20 2014 06:24 PM

Raccoon bite victim ordered to pay more than $80,000 to KCSOS

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Ian Smith, right, listens to his attorney Greg Muir in the hallways of Kern County Superior Court on Jan. 10, 2014, following the hearing where the Kern County Superintendent of Schools is trying recoup more than $206,000 in legal costs related to Smith's lawsuit over a raccoon attack at CALM.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Ian Smith sued the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office for almost $2 million after suffering a raccoon bite at the KCSOS-run California Living Museum in 2010.

He won't be getting a penny.

Instead, a Kern County judge has ordered Smith to pay $82,682.88 to KCSOS as partial reimbursement for fees they incurred fighting the lawsuit.

KCSOS had been seeking $200,304.56 from Smith to cover the costs of two trials after Smith refused a settlement offer. KCSOS attorney Michael C. Kellar said Thursday the final amount was at Judge Sidney P. Chapin's discretion.

"By reducing the amount the judge was not saying those were not appropriate costs," Kellar said. "He was taking into consideration Mr. Smith's lack of economic resources."

Chapin issued his ruling earlier this month. He said in a January court hearing he needed to balance Smith's economic status against the costs the lawsuit has placed on taxpayers.

Smith could not be reached Thursday. He has previously said he's "financially ruined" and won't be able to pay back anything.

The first trial in the case ended in a hung jury. A second trial in October 2013 ended with the jury siding with KCSOS.

Smith attended CALM on Jan. 31, 2010 with his then-8-year-old daughter. He said he spotted a raccoon about 100 to 150 feet away inside the zoo but outside any enclosure.

Smith said he took out his cellphone to snap a picture to show to zoo staff when the animal charged him. It bit through one of his fingers, also biting his foot and leg.

He sued for wage loss, hospital and medical expenses, and general damage.

Kellar has said Smith suffered injuries in the attack, but there's some dispute as to how badly he was injured. He said Smith was unable to sway two juries that KCSOS was at fault.

Zoo staff had made a thorough search for the raccoon after realizing it had escaped. They couldn't find it and believed it had left the area. The zoo remained open because there's nothing to stop other animals from coming on its grounds.

An animal expert testified in court that Smith's story didn't make sense because there has not been a recorded instance of a raccoon charging and attacking a person more than 100 feet away.

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