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Assumption of The Risk – A Fowl Outcome In Lawsuit for Injured Georgia Pet Sitter

Published February 12, 2018 by Bruce Millar

If you happen to be a professional snake charmer, you don’t get to sue and recover when the snake bites you. You know the snake is dangerous – perhaps deadly. As a professional, you presumably know all about snakes, and you are paid to assume the risks of handling the reptile. Do those same presumptions apply to chickens? According to the Georgia Court of Appeals, they do. Is it fair? You decide.

A professional pet sitter with 9-years of experiences takes a job that involves feeding chickens and gathering eggs for a local couple who must be gone for a few days. When the woman enters the chicken coop, she is attacked by the couple’s rooster and sustains multiple puncture wounds from the rooster’s spurs. She develops a serious infection and experiences long-term consequences from the injuries.

When the plaintiff pet sitter sues the owners of the rooster, the court grants the defense’s motion for summary judgment and the case is dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiff understood the risks associated with chicken sitting. (Gilreath v. Smith 340 Ga. App. (2017 ))

A motion to dismiss, also known as summary judgment can be granted if there is not enough evidence under the law to justify a trial (at least in the eyes of the trial judge).

In this case, the defendants swore that they had  given the plaintiff pet sitter warnings about the rooster’s aggressive behavior saying “The rooster will attack,” and suggesting that the sitter use a garbage can lid as a ‘shield’ to keep the rooster away. The defense argued that a professional pet sitter should be aware of the dangers of dealing with aggressive roosters and, therefore, understood and assumed the risks of being injured. The sitter had also taken the job of caring for these particular chickens on at least one previous occasion, and presumably had experience and understanding of the potential danger.

The injured woman argued that she had no knowledge of the degree to which the rooster could cause injury, nor had the pet owners prepared her for such. The appellate court held that as a professional, she had the responsibility of educating herself about the risks. (The audience isn’t required to tell the snake charmer that he is in danger.) Finally, the appellate court found in favor of the chicken owners because there was no evidence that they engaged in careless management of the rooster. Sam was kept locked up in the chicken coop where he posed no danger to the public.

What may have seemed to the plaintiff to be an obvious act of negligence on the part of the owners of Sam the rooster, was anything but. As in many animal-related cases we see, the law often gives animals and their owners a very generous benefit of the doubt as to their fault in attacks. Furthermore, the Georgia law that deals with animal injuries specifically excuses roosters with spurs from being at heel or on a leash.

If you have had an unfortunate encounter with somebody else’s dangerous animal, you may think you’re case is an easy one to win. Before you move forward with the expense of legal action, call the personal injury experts at The Millar Law Firm. We will review the facts in your case and give you a free evaluation and advice as to how you should proceed.

Animal injury cases are tricky. If you want to win one, you must have an experienced legal team to represent you – one that specializes in personal injury cases. That’s the team at The Millar Law Firm.

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