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Compensation for being Attacked by an Animal Upheld on Appeal

A settlement of compensation for being attacked by an animal – reduced 35% due to comparative negligence – has been upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

In March 2013, Fernando the bull broke through a fence dividing his owner´s land and a heifer breeding center. Concerned for the safety of his livestock, the owner of the breeding center – Ronald Coble – drove his ATV at the bull to scare it away.

However, rather than being frightened by the ATV, Fernando attacked it and flipped it over, trapping Coble inside. The bull continued its attack on the upturned ATV, with Coble sustaining a serious back injury and torn cartilages in his knee.

Coble claimed compensation for being attacked by an animal against the bull´s owner – Robert Taylor – stating that Taylor was liable for his injuries as Fernando had trespassed on his land in breach of Section 272.030 of Missouri´s fencing laws.

Taylor contested the claim for compensation for being attacked by an animal on the grounds that he had personally not been negligent in allowing the bull to escape, and that Section 272.030 of the fencing laws only applied to fences that divided a property from a road rather a neighbor.

In December 2014 the case was heard by a jury at the Circuit Court of Green County. The jury found in Coble´s favor and awarded him $1.8 million compensation for being attacked by an animal, before reducing it 35% to account for his comparative negligence in driving the ATV directly at the bull.

Both Taylor and Coble appealed the decision – Taylor arguing that the jury was wrong to attribute him with strict liability, and Coble arguing that the Green County judge had been wrong to instruct the jury to consider comparative negligence.

However the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the verdict of the Green County jury. After reviewing the case, Judges Scott, Bates and Sheffield agreed that Taylor was strictly liable for Coble´s injuries and that the judge´s instructions to the jury were appropriate in the circumstances.