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Suit against Cat Tales dropped

A South Korean television personality has at least temporarily dropped her lawsuit over a tiger attack at the Cat Tales zoo north of Spokane.

Actress Eun Joo Goh’s attorney, Jong Yi, moved to dismiss the lawsuit Friday before a judge could rule on a defense motion to throw the case out of court.

Goh sued Cat Tales and its owners, Mike and Debbie Wyche, in March in Spokane County Superior Court. Goh said the Wyches were negligent in a June 23, 2003, incident in which she was attacked by a 500-pound tiger named Zeus.

Goh was the host of a variety show that planned a segment on Cat Tales’ two white tigers, Zeus and Apollo.

Cat Tales attorney Mary Schultz said Goh’s own videotape shows her prodding Zeus before he turned on her. Goh may have been attempting to boost ratings by creating the appearance of danger, Schultz asserted.

Schultz said Goh suffered only a minor cut on her forearm, but Yi said Goh has scars from bites and scratches on her left thigh.

Yi said he intended to refile the complaint later, adding allegations designed to overcome weaknesses Schultz cited. He said he needed more time because of the difficulty of dealing with a client in South Korea and getting to Spokane from his office in Tacoma.

“I doubt we’ll be hearing from them again,” Schultz said. “It’s a frivolous lawsuit. If he wants to take another shot at it, he’s going to end up running right into the same wall.”

The “wall,” according to Schultz, is a news media liability waiver Goh signed before she was introduced to Zeus. The waiver can be defeated only by “gross negligence,” but there is no evidence of such extraordinary carelessness, Schultz asserted.

It was on those grounds that Schultz asked Judge Robert Austin to quash the lawsuit.

Yi disputed the validity of the waiver, which he contended wasn’t properly signed before the attack. He said Austin shouldn’t trust Cat Tales about the waiver because Mike Wyche pleaded guilty in 1994 to federal charges of making false statements and conspiracy.

The charges involved lying in documents concerning the origin of several large cats and conspiring to keep a cougar in defiance of a state Department of Fish and Wildlife order.

In an interview, Schultz accused Goh and Yi of trying to force a settlement by threatening to bring up Wyche’s conviction. In turn, Schultz accused Goh of falsely claiming not to speak English.

Wyche’s conviction and Goh’s language skills both are irrelevant, Schultz contended.

Austin granted Yi’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and allow it to be filed again later, but expressed irritation about lack of notice. Austin said both he and Schultz had spent time preparing unnecessarily for what was supposed to have been a summary judgment hearing.

The judge ruled that Goh must pay the Wyches’ attorney fees, which Schultz said exceed $5,000.

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