Tuesday, June 10, 2014

South Africa: Mother of US Tourist Killed by Elephant at Welgevonden Game Park Fails to Prevail in Court, Despite Judgment

According to http://www.bdlive.za, the nine-year-old case in which an elephant killed a US citizen mother has returned to haunt Three Cities Group, which manages and markets more than 30 tourism and leisure properties, including the largest marine theme park in Africa, uShaka Marine World.

Apart from a US$309,100 (R3.3 million) damages claim, the pending court case will challenge the regulation of field guides and rangers. Consultants on Monday (June 9) claimed proposals to amend the law to improve training standards had still not been implemented.

The tourism industry could be left counting the costs if standards do not improve and more harm is done to foreign tourists. In 2013, an estimated ten-million tourists visited South Africa. 

Lauren Jacobson-Mummy, of San Diego, CA, was a guest at Welgevonden Game Park on November 10 2005, when employee Milton Mnguni led her and other tourists to within 37 meters (121 feet) of an elephant cow and calf to take photographs. 

The elephant subsequently charged and killed Ms. Jacobson-Mummy, who leaves behind two minor children.

The plaintiff, the victim's mother, is bringing a civil claim for loss of support for her daughter’s two minor children.

COMMENT: One can only hope that the mother of the decedent was clear in her own mind as to what the probability of success was if she formally initiated litigation in a South African court.

Invariably, litigation initiated in foreign courts do not bode well for foreign litigants.

Attorneys for the plaintiff, De Klerk and Van Gend, said on Monday that summons were served on Friday (June 6) on Three Cities and Nungubane and Shidzidzi Lodge, where the killing occurred.

In a rare finding in 2009, both the company and Mnguni were found guilty of culpable homicide and fined. Three Cities managed the Nungubane and Shidzidzi Lodge in the Welgevonden Game Reserve.

The plaintiff claims Three Cities was responsible for managing operations complimentary to the hotel business, such as the viewing of game on foot. She contends her daughter’s death was caused by the wrongful and negligent acts of Mnguni and/or senior executives employed to manage the lodges.

Gerhard van Niekerk, a director at De Klerk and Van Gend, said on Monday (June 9) no settlement had been reached between his client and Three Cities, its insurers or the lodges, despite the US plaintiff traveling to South Africa from the US in 2013 and requesting a meeting with retained counsel.

In a strange development, on Monday, CEO of Three Cities Michael Lambert said he had not received the summons and was under the impression the case had been closed with no financial settlement re: the original claim.

No doubt, the US plaintiff should confer with retained counsel and determine why the case was closed, despite the judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.