Not a cent for woman whose finger was bitten off by chimp, court rules

2019-05-15 09:33
Juliana Cromhout's right hand. (File, Julian Jansen, Rapport)

Juliana Cromhout's right hand. (File, Julian Jansen, Rapport)

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The owners of a chimpanzee that bit off and spat out a woman's finger are not to blame for the incident, the Western Cape High Court ruled on Tuesday.

Times Live reported that Kalu, the resident chimpanzee of Broadlands Farm in Somerset West, bit off Juliana Cromhout's right index finger as she fed the primate figs in December 2013.

The Cape Argus previously reported that Cromhout, 69, who was renting a room on the farm around 2013, was suing Patricia Cavendish O'Neill, 93, and two trustees of the Cavendish O'Neill Animal Trust for R469 000 for the injuries.

Times Live reports the amount as R649 000.

Cromhout reportedly said in court papers that the area in which the chimpanzee was kept was not properly fenced off, nor did any warning signs appear at or near the area, nor was she ever warned about the possible danger in coming close to the chimpanzee's area.

Bit finger off and spat it out

She said on or about December 12, 2013, she approached the fenced area in which the chimpanzee was kept, holding a bag of figs under her right arm. The chimpanzee grabbed her by the arm, pulled her arm through the bar area of the fence and bit her right index finger off and spat it out.

Juliana Cromhout

Juliana Cromhout outside court. (Edrea du Toit, Netwerk24)

According to Times Live, Cromhout said she received no warning of the risks of coming close to Kalu and claimed that the chimp's enclosure was not properly fenced.

The defendants reportedly maintained that the area was kept secure with mesh wire and electric fencing, while signs and disclaimers warned of possible danger - which Cromhout later conceded. They said Cromhout was also verbally warned about previous incidents with Kalu.

Dismissing the case, Judge Judith Cloete said Cromhout "nevertheless voluntarily exposed herself to these risks", Times Live wrote.

"A defendant is only required to take reasonable measures to safeguard others. It was in fact [Cromhout] who breached those safety measures by putting her arm and/or hand through the bars of the caged-off area," she reportedly said.

According to Netwerk24, the eccentric O'Neill – who was extremely wealthy – made headlines years ago when she bequeathed her farm to her chimp and other animals.

Kalu was reportedly rescued by O'Neil from the war-torn Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in the early 1990s and has since lived on the farm with more than 65 dogs, apes and baboons.

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Read more on:    patricia cavendish o'neill  |  cape town  |  animals  |  courts
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