In a court filing, lawyers for Smithtown said that Charlie,...

In a court filing, lawyers for Smithtown said that Charlie, a steer who was rescued from a Rhode Island farm and now weighs a ton, had no violent history. Credit: John Roca

Smithtown council members on Tuesday approved a $20,000 payment to settle a lawsuit by a woman from upstate Walden who said she was attacked by a “ferocious and vicious” steer named Charlie at the town’s Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve. 

Charlie, rescued from a Rhode Island farm where he was being raised for veal, weighed about 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and was three at the time of the July 7, 2018, encounter at the Commack park, according to court filings. Charlie now weighs 1 ton. 

A town employee at Hoyt said the steer was still at the farm. “Charlie is part of our family here and will stay here forever,” the employee said.

Workers raised the height of the fence in Charlie’s paddock from about four feet to 10 feet, according to the filings. 

Elaine Aponte’s lawyers alleged in a 2018 suit in Suffolk County Supreme Court that Aponte and her 3-year-old niece were feeding Charlie a carrot when — enticed by someone else's apple — he knocked them to the ground with his head from behind his enclosure. The girl was not hurt but Aponte alleges she was left with a fractured spine and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The town was liable for Aponte’s injuries and its employees knew, or should have known, of Charlie’s “ferocious and vicious propensities,” Aponte’s lawyers alleged. 

In a court filing, lawyers for Smithtown countered that Charlie had no violent history. They argued that witnesses from Aponte’s own family had testified that Charlie was only acting “as cows normally do.” 

But as Judge Carmen Victoria St. George noted in a March 2022 filing, there were “conflicting versions of the incident” and “issues of credibility.” 

In depositions and statements, Aponte accused farm caretakers of writing an error-filled accident report. The caretakers, who did not witness the incident, said it was based on the recollection of a relative of Aponte who was there. 

Farm manager Jeff Gumin said after the encounter that he and farm interpretive specialist Sheryl Brook talked about Aponte’s family members changing their stories about the incident in an attempt to “make a buck.” Brook said she’d seen Aponte “writhing in pain on the ground” after the encounter, but a relative of Aponte told her the injury had come after Aponte got scared and tripped over a stroller. Brook also accused a relative of falsely claiming that Brook told her after the incident that Charlie had a bad history.

“I feel that this is an insulting claim and completely fabricated,” Brook wrote in a statement submitted to the court. 

Gumin on Tuesday said, “It’s a shame the town would have to settle....There’s not a bad bone in that steer’s body.”

Town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said the decision to settle was "purely a business decision. If we continued on in court we would be expending 4 times the settlement amount in community tax dollars and resources," she wrote in a text message. 

In her own deposition, Aponte said the steer was “agitated…He didn’t want that carrot.” 

She said she fell not because she tripped but because Charlie slammed into her. 

She lived in pain and fear that she would reaggravate her injuries. 

She also said she had PTSD, a phenomenon she associated with men at war. “I got hit by a steer, not shrapnel.”

Smithtown council members on Tuesday approved a $20,000 payment to settle a lawsuit by a woman from upstate Walden who said she was attacked by a “ferocious and vicious” steer named Charlie at the town’s Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve. 

Charlie, rescued from a Rhode Island farm where he was being raised for veal, weighed about 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and was three at the time of the July 7, 2018, encounter at the Commack park, according to court filings. Charlie now weighs 1 ton. 

A town employee at Hoyt said the steer was still at the farm. “Charlie is part of our family here and will stay here forever,” the employee said.

Workers raised the height of the fence in Charlie’s paddock from about four feet to 10 feet, according to the filings. 

Elaine Aponte’s lawyers alleged in a 2018 suit in Suffolk County Supreme Court that Aponte and her 3-year-old niece were feeding Charlie a carrot when — enticed by someone else's apple — he knocked them to the ground with his head from behind his enclosure. The girl was not hurt but Aponte alleges she was left with a fractured spine and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The town was liable for Aponte’s injuries and its employees knew, or should have known, of Charlie’s “ferocious and vicious propensities,” Aponte’s lawyers alleged. 

In a court filing, lawyers for Smithtown countered that Charlie had no violent history. They argued that witnesses from Aponte’s own family had testified that Charlie was only acting “as cows normally do.” 

But as Judge Carmen Victoria St. George noted in a March 2022 filing, there were “conflicting versions of the incident” and “issues of credibility.” 

In depositions and statements, Aponte accused farm caretakers of writing an error-filled accident report. The caretakers, who did not witness the incident, said it was based on the recollection of a relative of Aponte who was there. 

Farm manager Jeff Gumin said after the encounter that he and farm interpretive specialist Sheryl Brook talked about Aponte’s family members changing their stories about the incident in an attempt to “make a buck.” Brook said she’d seen Aponte “writhing in pain on the ground” after the encounter, but a relative of Aponte told her the injury had come after Aponte got scared and tripped over a stroller. Brook also accused a relative of falsely claiming that Brook told her after the incident that Charlie had a bad history.

“I feel that this is an insulting claim and completely fabricated,” Brook wrote in a statement submitted to the court. 

Gumin on Tuesday said, “It’s a shame the town would have to settle....There’s not a bad bone in that steer’s body.”

Town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said the decision to settle was "purely a business decision. If we continued on in court we would be expending 4 times the settlement amount in community tax dollars and resources," she wrote in a text message. 

In her own deposition, Aponte said the steer was “agitated…He didn’t want that carrot.” 

She said she fell not because she tripped but because Charlie slammed into her. 

She lived in pain and fear that she would reaggravate her injuries. 

She also said she had PTSD, a phenomenon she associated with men at war. “I got hit by a steer, not shrapnel.”

Latest Videos