A PR Catch-22

Here is an interesting case: The Pittsburgh Zoo has been sued by a mother whose child died at one of the exhibits. The mother stood her child on the railing of the African Painted Dog exhibit and turned her back. The child fell into the display, bouncing off the safety net into the exhibit, and was mailed to death.

The mother sued the zoo. In its defense, the Zoo asserted all available defenses, including

pointing out the mother’s actions (for those of you who are not attorneys, this is called comparative negligence or contributory negligence, both of which are considered “affirmative defenses”).

To me, this is a classic case of a Catch-22: defend yourself and face the attacks of the media (“How dare the Zoo blame the mother?”) or fail to defend yourself and face a default judgment and the concomitant media spectacle (“Zoo liable for child’s death…”).

So the questions are: How would you have handled the response, and which of the two options in the previous paragraph would you prefer?

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