A Grand Prairie woman is suing The Dallas World Aquarium, claiming a giant otter scratched her 18-month-old son, leaving a gaping wound and an infection that has caused permanent scarring.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in a Dallas County district court, seeks damages of more than $1 million.
In a written statement, Waylon Tate, a spokesman for the aquarium, said the health and safety of guests, staff and animals “has been — and will continue to be — our top priority,” but declined to comment further, citing the pending litigation.
The encounter happened May 2, when Stacey and Ryan Williams took their sons, Zachary and Nathan, to the aquarium.
At the giant otter exhibit — an open-air habitat with protective glass about 5½ feet tall — Zachary and Stacey Williams crouched down to get an underwater view, while Ryan Williams held Nathan in front of the glass.
Then, according to the lawsuit, came the screaming and the blood.
Heather Davis, a lawyer representing the family, said nobody actually saw an otter attack Nathan; Ryan Williams was looking down toward his wife and Zachary, who were watching the otters underwater.
But Davis said nothing else could explain Nathan’s wounds ― graphic pictures included in the lawsuit show several gashes on Nathan’s arm — and the Pasteurella bacterial infection he developed, which is often caused by animals.
“There was nothing else around there that could have caused this,” Davis said. “They were pushed right up against the Plexiglass and the only logical explanation is the fact that this otter jumped up and got him, especially given the fact that he developed a bacterial infection.”
Stacey Williams’ next memory, according to the lawsuit, was her husband “handing her a bloody, screaming Nathan.” Williams squeezed her hand around her son’s arm as a tourniquet and ran to a concession area, where workers handed her a rag and showed her to the emergency stairwell, the lawsuit says.
Aquarium medical personnel looked at the wounds and suggested Nathan be taken to the hospital. Ryan Williams had already called 911.
Nathan needed more than a dozen stitches to close his wounds, according to court documents. The infection led to him being hospitalized for several days about eight weeks after his initial release, Davis said.
Included in the lawsuit are a screenshot of a TripAdvisor review with a picture of an otter within the reach of a visitor, and a link to a YouTube video that shows an otter at the aquarium escape its exhibit and approach a group of children. The lawsuit also includes ferocious-looking pictures of giant otters eating other animals.
Giant otters, which are native to South America, can grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 75 pounds, according to >National Geographic. Fish make up the majority of their diet.
While Nathan might have been too young to remember the details of the incident, his brother, who was 4 at the time, had nightmares for weeks, Davis said.
The boy’s parents also were traumatized.
“Imagine … having to use your hand as a tourniquet on the child’s arm to stem blood flow,” Davis said. “That’s traumatizing. For Nathan, it was different because he was so young. … It’s yet to be seen how it’s going to affect him completely. It’s been a struggle for the entire family to get over.”
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/woman-sues-dallas-world-aquarium-claiming-giant-otter-attacked-her-18-month-old-son/ar-AAPPfdb656