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A fallow deer looks around a tree at Rock City.
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Dr. Christian Keller

LAFAYETTE, Ga. - Rock City officials have settled a lawsuit with a local veterinarian who blamed them for injuries he suffered while treating a deer.

Dr. Christian Keller came to Rock City in June 2009 to care for a sick fallow deer, a species that grows to be only about 3 feet tall. Court documents show that the deer were housed in an area covered with rocks.

Keller said in court documents that he had asked the company to move the deer from rocky ground because it was dangerous. He said company officials ignored him.

According to the lawsuit, Keller realized that the deer needed "emergency medical care," so he tried to sedate the animal. He said several Rock City employees gathered around and began to "gawk" at the deer.

The employees were "loud, boisterous, and unruly," according to the lawsuit, filed in June 2011.

One particular employee -- whose name is not revealed in the lawsuit -- began spraying water on the ground where the deer stood, making the rocks slippery.

Keller said that he told the employee with the water hose to stop spraying the ground, but the employee ignored him. Keller also told the other employees to leave the area.

"Despite Dr. Keller's repeated requests," the lawsuit reads, "Rock City employees failed to remove themselves to a safe location or to quiet down to prevent the deer from panicking."

And panic the deer did. In the lawsuit, Keller alleged that deer began to run around on the slippery rocks, knocking him over. He broke his right wrist and right forearm.

Keller then had to undergo surgery and rehabilitation for nine months. He said his medical bills exceeded $100,000. He also said the injury caused him to lose about $40,000 at his own practice that year, in part because he couldn't perform surgery. He blamed it on Rock City, calling its actions "negligent."

Keller stated in the lawsuit that he was still missing out on some potential money because of those injuries five years ago. He also said it hurt his relationship with his wife and children.

Attorneys for Keller and Rock City were due in court Monday morning, but the parties settled Friday afternoon. Rock City CEO Bill Chapin said he legally could not disclose the terms of the agreement.

"It got settled," he said. "I'm just happy it's over."

Keller did not return calls seeking comment. Neither did his attorney, Scott Maucere.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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