Generally, the ordinary rules of negligence and premises liability are applicable to situations involving personal injury claims against an agency responsible for operating and maintaining a zoo.

Similar to amusement parks open to the public, zoos present many potential dangers to those who visit them. As such, zoos have a heightened duty of care to keep its visitors from harm.

What Are Some Typical Personal Injury Claims Regarding Zoo Liability?

Running a zoo can be a complicated and difficult task, as there are many things that could possibly go wrong. Some of the most typical personal injury claims stem from injuries caused by:

  • Escaped or caged/restrained zoo animals: States differ in how they impose liability based on animal attacks occuring in zoos. Some states hold zoos absolutely liable for injuries inflicted by their animals, while others require a showing that the zoo was negligent in some way.
  • Alleged defects in the zoo property: Some personal injury claims may arise from defects in a zoo sidewalk (involving slip and fall accidents), defects in a rollercoaster or other ride operating on the zoo's premises, or negligently maintained cages or fences that house animals.
  • Animal injuries to zoo employees: Typically, a zoo employee injured by an escaping or caged animal cannot recover absent negligence by the zoo.
  • Food poisoning by the vendors selling food on the premises.

What Are Some Defenses That A Zoo May Assert In Order To Escape Liability?

A zoo may claim they are not liable for injuries that occured on their premises under any of the following legal theories: 

  • Governmental Immunity: Since most zoos are maintained by governmental agencies, states will occasionally grant zoos government immunity from tort liability (meaning that they will not be liable for injuries caused by the zoo). Most states are becoming less willing to grant this form of immunity.
  • Contributory Negligence: If a visitor to a zoo does something to place himself in an abnormally dangerous position (such as putting his hand inside a bear's cage), then he may not be able to recover from a zoo.
  • Assumption of risk: Those who choose to visit a zoo assume the inherent risk that something dangerous may happen to them during their visit to the park, and may not be able to recover depending on their injury.

Should I Contact An Attorney If I Am Injured At A Zoo?

If you sustain any injuries while visiting a zoo, then you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer. He will be able to advise you of the possible claims that you may have against the zoo and the various legal theories that support them.