Family injured by large tree branch at San Antonio Zoo files million-dollar lawsuit

Prominent San Antonio attorney Thomas J. Henry is representing the family

SAN ANTONIO – One of the families injured by the large tree branch that fell at the San Antonio Zoo in March has filed a lawsuit seeking damages “in excess of one million dollars.”

Crystal and Librado Rodriguez and their two minor children are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday. The family is being represented by prominent San Antonio attorney Thomas J. Henry.

The lawsuit names the San Antonio Zoological Society and Alamo City Arbor Care as defendants.

KSAT reported on the fallen tree branch after it broke around noon on March 15 and injured seven guests.

Video of the aftermath of the fallen tree branch can be seen in the media player at the top of this article.

The tree branch broke off of a cedar elm in the northeast corner of the zoo, just past the Birds of the World area, and struck the Rodriguez family, along with three others.

Hope Roth, vice president of marketing for the SA Zoo, previously told KSAT the zoo’s safety director was nearby and immediately attended to the guests who were injured.

According to SAFD spokesman Joe Arrington, one of the injured guests was transported to a hospital as a Priority 1, which usually indicates a victim suffered a life-threatening injury.

That victim was one of the Rodriguez’s children who “was in a coma for several days and has had surgery,” the lawsuit states.

Some of the listed physical injuries for the family, according to the lawsuit, are listed below:

  • Crystal Rodriguez - Suffered severe and permanent bodily injuries to her head, arm, shoulders, back, head, arms, leg, and other parts of her body.
  • Librado Rodriguez - Suffered bodily injuries to his back, shoulders and other parts of his body.
  • Minor Child - Suffered severe and permanent bodily injuries to her wrists, arms, skull, orbital bones, lungs, back and other parts of her body. Further, she suffered a traumatic brain injury.
  • Second Minor Child - Suffered bodily injuries to his knee, head, back and other parts of his body.

The weight of the branch was estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds, the lawsuit states.

Arborist George Cardenas previously told KSAT that the tree may have been overweight and may have had some decay, but zoo officials have not confirmed that.

The lawsuit claims the tree and limb that broke off it were “rotted and in a dangerous condition that had been developing for some time.”

Photo from lawsuit - Crystal Rodriguez ET AL VS San Antonio Zoological Society ET AL (166th District Court)

Lawyers for the family also requested a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction barring the zoo or Alamo City Arbor Care from “taking any action that might alter, damage or destroy the evidence involved.”

That request includes but is not limited to all remnants of the tree, all surveillance tapes and videos, all audio recordings, maintenance records or repair requests for the fencing at the location of the tree, among other records.

The tree was removed from the zoo grounds immediately following the incident. According to the lawsuit, it was sent through a wood grinder and destroyed.

San Antonio Zoo sent a statement on the lawsuit to KSAT 12 Wednesday evening, shared below:

“San Antonio Zoo is aware of the lawsuit filed by the law offices of Thomas J. Henry on behalf of the Rodriguez family. The safety of our guests, staff, and animals is always a priority, this was an unfortunate accident that was not caused by any action or inaction by San Antonio Zoo or its employees. We look forward to demonstrating that through the legal process.”

We also reached out to Alamo City Arbor Care for comment but have not yet heard back.

The family is seeking a trial by jury.

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