The Madison Holland camel bite lawsuit has been settled. The family of a 10-year-old girl bitten by a camel at the Virginia Safari Park has reached a $155,000 settlement with the drive-through zoo.
As reported by CNN, Madison Holland suffered serious injuries to her forearm during a May 30, 2015, visit to the Rockbridge County attraction, according to a court settlement approved Monday.
At the park Visitors are able to drive their cars or ride on wagons through the 180-acre property, where antelopes, camels, llamas, zebras and other animals often approach the vehicles to be fed from buckets of grain provided by the park.
The Franklin County native was on a wagon ride when the camel “went to obtain food and bit [her] arm,” according to a settlement approved by Roanoke County Circuit Judge David Carson.
Had the case gone to trial, the attorney for Holland’s family would have argued the park was negligent in the way it allowed its patrons close access to the animals.
“Having a wild animal that is interacting with people, I think you would have to use an extra degree of care,” said lawyer Brooks Hundley of Richmond.
At the time of the incident, Holland was riding in a hay-filled wagon with friends who had gone to the safari park for a birthday party. She was not attempting to feed the camel when she was bitten, Hundley said.
“I can’t say what the animal’s thought process was, but the animal was probably upset that she wasn’t feeding him,” the attorney said.
Through its insurance carrier, Scottsdale Insurance Co., the safari park agreed to the settlement without admitting any liability. Court papers call the settlement a “good faith payment” to compromise a disputed claim.
Calls to the safari park and its lawyer were not returned this week.
Although the settlement was for $155,000, Holland actually will receive nearly $190,000. That’s because the money will earn interest until she turns 18, when she will be old enough to begin collecting payments. Holland is now 11.
An annuity established for Holland will pay her a $10,000 lump sum when she turns 18, followed by $1,000 monthly payments starting when she turns 21 and continuing through 2040.
About $35,000 of the settlement will be paid to Hundley’s firm for legal fees, and nearly $3,000 will go to medical bills. Holland spent several days in the hospital and still bears a scar on her arm, Hundley said.
A key attraction at Virginia Safari Park is the close encounters its visitors have with exotic animals. “We encourage interaction by allowing visitors to feed the animals with our specialty grain,” the park’s website states.
That practice, at least in some cases, has drawn concerns from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates zoos.
An enforcement action filed last year against the Gulf Breeze Zoo, a Florida zoo operated by the same company that owns the Virginia Safari Park, alleges that children were allowed to move unattended while feeding camels, goats and llamas.
In one case, a child was bitten by a camel at the Gulf Breeze Zoo, according to the USDA complaint.
The civil complaint — which also accuses the Virginia Safari Park of violating the Animal Welfare Act for the improper care of a monkey that died from frostbite — is pending an administrative court hearing, according to a USDA official in Washington.
At the time the complaint was filed in June 2015, Virginia Safari Park owner Eric Mogensen said the zoos deny the allegations, which he described as “redundant, and for the most part very minor