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Who Is Liable If You Are Attacked By An Animal? Strict Liability, Part I

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My view on this is as follows:


Strict Liability

There are multiple issues to be considered. The first is the theory of liability.  Florida has 2 strict liability statutes about damage done by dogs to persons and property.  However, these statutes are limited to damage done by dogs, and no other animals.  Florida courts, however, have extended such strict liability to the owner, keeper, or possessor of a wild animals if they injure others.  Also, if the wild animal is one of a class that is not indigenous to the locality, its escape does not prevent its possessor from being liable for the harm done by the animal no matter how long after its escape. Being strictly liable means that you cannot get out of being liable for an injury even if you were being reasonably careful.

General Negligence

That said, in the absence of strict liability, an owner of land or its tenant would only be responsible if it was negligent in some way. If the snake was just a normal wild snake commonly found in Florida, regardless of whether or not it was venomous, and Disney did not keep it on its property intentionally, nor allowed it to remain on the property if it knew where it was nesting, I do not see any negligent liability.

Impact Rule

However, if somehow it was found that Disney was negligent, Florida’s Impact Rule must be considered.  In  Champion v. Gray, 478 So. 2d 17 (Fla. 1985), the Supreme Court, a drunk driver ran his car off the road and killed a young woman pedestrian. The young woman’s mother heard the impact and immediately ran to the accident scene.  In seeing her daughter’s body, the mother was so overcome with shock and grief, that she collapsed and died on the spot.  Florida’s Supreme Court held that death or significant discernible physical injury, when caused by psychological trauma resulting from a negligent injury imposed upon a close family member within the sensory perception of the physically injured person, did indeed present a great harm, for which there could be a recovery.  It further found that because that harm was so significant, it was unnecessary to require direct physical contact as a condition precedent to a wrongful death cause of action, which is normally required under Florida’s Impact Rule.

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