Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No insurance coverage for tiger attack

Tomorrow we will start to discuss strict liability. One of the first things we will learn is that strict liability is a theory of liability that applies only in certain types of cases, including cases where the injuries are caused by wild animals. Today, is reporting on such a case (here). The case itself is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of doctrine, but I thought the timing was so eerie that I would post about it -- if nothing else to be able to tell my students that these thing really do happen in real life. In this case, a 17-year-old high school student wanted to have her "senior picture" taken with a tiger at a farm that was licensed to rescue and shelter exotic animals, including tigers, bears, lions, cougars, monkeys and alligators. The farm had made its animals available for photos in the past. Unfortunately, the 700-pound Siberian tiger attacked the girl and she later died from her injuries. The parents obtained a judgment for wrongful death but the defendant's insurance company denied coverage. It turns out, the defendant's policy was only for "homeowner's insurance" which excluded coverage for business pursuits. For this reason, the court held there was no coverage and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The parents still have to right to collect from the defendants themselves but I don't know if the defendants have enough assets to cover the judgment.

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