The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog

No Criminal Charges for Mother of Child Mauled at Zoo

As if witnessing a child's death wasn't bad enough for the Pittsburgh mom. Elizabeth Derkosh recently had to face a criminal investigation by a prosecutor to determine whether she would face charges related to her son's death at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Luckily for the mom, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala found no fault at the hands of the mother.

At least no criminal fault.

Now, prosecutors have turned their sights on the zoo, to determine whether the zoo was at fault for the child’s death.

The toddler, Maddox Derkosh, was killed when he fell over the railing at the Pittsburgh Zoo last month, after his mother put him on the railing so that he could get a better view of the African painted dogs.

According to witnesses, the toddler had poor eyesight. He lunged forward as his mother was holding him by the waist. She then lost control of her son as he fell into the exhibit.

The prosecutors are looking at the details of the case to determine whether the zoo could be guilty of manslaughter, due to the design of the exhibit.

One issue of concern points to the fact that police response was delayed. A second concern is that a tranquilizer weapon didn’t have a dart loaded with medicine.

Those factors, however, wouldn’t have made much difference in saving the life of the child, Zappala told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The findings from this criminal investigation will help determine fault from a civil liability standpoint, as well. While the degree of fault required for criminal guilt and civil liability are different, the absence of criminal fault won’t necessarily mean that the zoo isn’t liable for negligence, in a civil lawsuit.

But a finding of fault will certainly bolster the case against the zoo.

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