GALVESTON, Texas (CN) – Two monkeys bit and scratched a woman at a Galveston theme park, whose manager then defamed her by telling the media that she had “attempted to grab them,” the woman claims in court.
Evelyn Rumfield sued Moody Gardens in Galveston County Court. Moody Gardens is the only defendant.
Moody Gardens is a tourist attraction that includes a golf course, hotel, aquarium and a rainforest exhibit housed in a 10-story pyramid.
Rumfield claims that two cotton-top tamarin monkeys bit and scratched her in the rainforest pyramid on June 17, 2012.
“Plaintiff did nothing to provoke the attack and has suffered and continues to suffer significant physical and emotional pain and suffering as a result thereof,” the complaint states.
“Following the attack, Gregg Whittaker, the animal husbandry manager for Moody, made the following false statement regarding this incident, ‘What most likely happened is [plaintiff] got too close, decided she wanted to grab the animal. The animal spun around and bit the woman. The other cotton top that’s part of the group here came to his defense and kind of jumped on her head.'” (Brackets in complaint.)
Whittaker made the statement in a televised interview broadcast by Houston’s CBS affiliate, KHOU 11 News.
Galveston police Lt. Joel Caldwell appears in the same segment and says a witness saw Rumfield grab one of the monkeys.
“He was close to where she was standing in the open exhibit and he said she reached into the tree and actually grabbed the monkey,” Caldwell said.
But in her lawsuit, Rumfield insists she “did not attempt to grab the tamarins prior to the attack.”
Rumfield claims she has paid around $20,000 for medical treatment for her physical and emotional injuries from the attack.
She seeks punitive damages for premises liability, negligent handling of an animal and defamation. She filed the lawsuit one day before the two-year statute of limitations ran on her claims.
She is represented by Brandon Davenport of Dallas.
The monkeys were quarantined for 30 days after the incident, as required by Texas law, KHOU reported.
Moody Garden’s public relations manager Jerri Hamachek declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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