In response to numerous media inquiries, we can confirm that we have filed a Civil Complaint in the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Court of Common Pleas asserting claims that include wrongful death and negligence, resulting from the November 4, 2012, fatal mauling of two-year-old Maddox Derkosh by a pack of African wild dogs on the grounds of the Pittsburgh Zoo. The Complaint, which names the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and the Zoological Society of Pittsburgh as defendants, was filed on behalf of Elizabeth and Jason Derkosh, parents of Maddox Derkosh. He was their only child.
Our Complaint details the events – including the litany of institutional lapses in fundamental exhibit design, safety, and security that caused Maddox’s death. Elizabeth and Jason have asked us to find out why the Zoo had an unsafe exhibit, why they ignored warnings from their own employee regarding the very danger that killed Maddox and to ensure that no other family has to suffer the same unimaginable tragedy.
The filing marks just the beginning of the legal process to demonstrate that the death of Maddox Derkosh was absolutely preventable and that the Zoo failed in its responsibility to protect Maddox – and every other visitor to the wild dog exhibit – from harm. We now know, and the Complaint details, that the Zoo’s management was warned, before the tragedy, by at least one employee, that parents would lift their children to see through the viewing enclosure “at least ten” times every day. Rather than thanking their employee for bringing this hazard to their attention, and then correcting it, the Zoo curtly reprimanded him and told him, “This is not your concern, go back to work.”
Tragically, Maddox fell as his mother held him to see into the exhibit through the viewing opening. The Complaint details and includes photos of the precautions taken by other Zoos to protect their patrons from African wild dogs including the use of barrier glass, moats, and wire mesh, preventing the very tragedy that occurred at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
The Zoo knew or should have known how to protect its visitors from the killer dogs, and the fatal consequences that would likely result when “human prey” suddenly appeared in their territory. Any chance of survival was diminished by the Zoo’s abysmal emergency response plan, which included blank and useless tranquilizer darts.
Elizabeth and Jason are loving parents. They still mourn. They still hurt and will hurt the rest of their lives. They deeply appreciate the support of the greater Pittsburgh community and they are determined to do what they can to ensure that what happened to their only child can never happen again at the Pittsburgh Zoo, or at any zoo. They remain especially grateful for the outpouring of love and goodwill for the “Trucks for Maddox” holiday toy truck drive that celebrates the legacy of Maddox and his caring for other kids.