A Texas woman is suing the Dallas World Aquarium for more than $1 million after she says her child was attacked by a giant otter during a visit last spring.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, Stacey Williams said she and her husband took their two young boys to the Dallas World Aquarium on May 2. The family made their way through the aquarium's exhibits and said that while at the otter exhibit her 18-month-old son Nathan was "brutally attacked."
According to the lawsuit, Nathan's father Ryan was holding him and was standing next to the otter enclosure. Stacy was kneeling down in front of the plexiglass barrier with her older son Zachary looking at the otters under the water.
The family alleges one of the otters scratched the young boy's arm, leaving three deep gouges.
"Nathan began crying and bleeding profusely. Ryan Williams, Nathan’s father, handed him to Ms. Williams, who immediately squeezed her hand around Nathan’s wound as a make-shift tourniquet," the lawsuit said.
After the boy's father called 911, the family met with medical personnel at the aquarium who, according to the lawsuit, agreed that he should be taken to a hospital.
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In the lawsuit, the family said Nathan required more than a dozen stitches to close his wounds, but after being sent home he returned to the hospital about 24 hours later after developing a fever. Doctors then diagnosed the child with having a Pasteurella infection -- a bacteria found in the mouths and claws of animals.
The family said it took three months for Nathan's arm to completely heal and to resolve the infection and that the attack left him with significant, permanent scarring.
According to the lawsuit, the family said they saw no signs or caution lines that warned them the otters could be dangerous or that they should stay back from the plexiglass enclosure.
"Nothing on the DWA’S website, informational pamphlets, or animal information
screens advise visitors that the otters can be aggressive, can leap several feet out of the water, can reach over the exhibit, and can cause significant infections and injuries," the lawsuit said.
The family's lawsuit included two social media posts from 2007 and 2013 where people mentioned the otters either leaving their enclosure or climbing to the top of their plexiglass wall within reach of visitors.
"What's disturbing is that the Dallas World Aquarium knew that these animals could get out. Because it had happened at least twice before," Heather Davis, an attorney at Carter Law Group who is representing the family, told NBC 5 on Wedensday. "The Dallas World Aquarium knew that these animals, with these crazy claws, with aggressive tendencies, could get up and reach visitors … and they did nothing about it."
"They knew in 2008 that they could get out and they didn't raise the plexiglass. They knew in 2013 that they could get out and they didn't raise the plexiglass and now here we are in 2021 where nothing has been changed and a baby has been injured and will have permanent scarring for the rest of his life," Davis said.
The lawsuit alleges the Dallas World Aquarium was negligent in their care and handling of the otters and the family is seeking a jury trial where they plan to ask for more than $1 million in damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and permanent disfigurement.
NBC 5 reached out to the Dallas World Aquarium Wednesday afternoon for comment but has not received a response.