Sholberg v. Truman – Car Accidents Involving Large Animals

As a “fault” car insurance state, injured parties or those representing estates of those wrongfully killed are entitled to pursue damages from the driver whose actions caused the crash. horseinroad.jpg

But what if the other party wasn’t a person, but rather an animal? Large livestock can sometimes become loose in rural areas, and when roaming on roads, can result in crashes that cause serious injuries and even death.

Car accident injury attorneys
in Greensboro know that it is a Class 3 misdemeanor in North Carolina for any livestock owner to permit a farm animal to run at-large. Additionally, the owner may be held liable for injuries caused by that livestock if the animals are at-large with his knowledge or consent or if their escape is due to his negligence.

State statues require livestock owners to use reasonable care and the foresight of a prudent person in restraining animals on the property. There isn’t a presumption of negligence when an animal gets loose from an owner. However, if it can be shown that an animal repeatedly was allowed or able to run at-large, this could be the basis to establish liability. It is considered the owner’s responsibility to know the general propensities of certain animals, including whether they are likely to attempt to wander or break free, and to take certain measures to prevent injury from reasonably-anticipated conduct.

In the case of Estate of Sholberg v. Truman, the Michigan Supreme Court was tasked with determining whether not just the owner of the horse that caused a crash was liable (as clearly, he was), but whether so too were the title owners of the property on which the horse resided.

According to court records, a woman was killed when the vehicle she was driving struck a horse that was standing in the middle of the road. The horse had escaped from its stall at a nearby property.

The deceased woman’s estate filed a lawsuit against both the owner of the horse and the title owners of the property, presenting evidence of at least 30 prior instances of animal escapes near the farm in a seven-year span between 2003 and 2010. In each of those instances, the estate alleged, there had been a hazard presented on surrounding public roads.

The trial court entered a default judgment against the owner of the horse, but granted summary judgment in favor of the title owners, holding they did not have possession of the property.

The court asserted that the title owner of real property can’t be held liable for public nuisance that occurs when someone other than the title owner was in control of the property or exercised control of the property and created the alleged nuisance. Here, the title owners had not even been to the property in over a decade, and there was no evidence presented to suggest they were aware of the repeated escapes involving animals on the property.

The court determined the owner of the animal, therefore, was exclusively responsible.

This doesn’t limit the ability of the estate to pursue damages or even the amount of damages, necessarily. Rather, it reduces the number of people from whom damages can be collected.

Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Estate of Sholberg v. Truman, June 10, 2014, Michigan Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Davis v. Urquiza – Timely, Proper Filing of Uninsured Motorist Claim Critical, June 2, 2014, Greensboro Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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