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Connecticut blocks chimp-attack victim's bid to sue state

By Richard Weizel

MILFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - A Connecticut woman whose face and hands were ripped off in an attack by a friend's pet chimpanzee in 2009, on Wednesday was denied a bid to sue the state for up to $150 million to cover her medical expenses.

The state legislature's judiciary committee voted 35-3 against Charla Nash's request to sue the state to cover injuries she suffered when the 200-pound (90 kilogram) chimpanzee mauled her while she was visiting the home of her friend and employer, who owned the animal.

Legislators voted to uphold the state's sovereign immunity, which protects it from lawsuits.

State Attorney General George Jepsen had said that allowing the suit to proceed would "open the floodgates for unlimited lawsuits and liability that would bankrupt the state."

Attorneys for Nash had argued that the state should have removed the animal from her friend's home, noting that the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was aware of its presence and, in one report, had called it "an accident waiting to happen."

Nash, 60, has undergone a face transplant, a failed double-hand transplant and many other surgeries since the attack. In a statement released after the vote, she described herself as "heartbroken."

"The fact that I will not be able to tell my side of the story to a court of law is devastating," Nash said. "I wanted a chance to be able to pay my medical bills and get the assistance I need to live as normal of a life as possible. I can't give up hope now."

The chimpanzee was shot dead by police who responded to the incident.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)

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