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Judge: national park staff not liable for fatal goat attack

A very complicated area of premises liability law here in Atlanta and throughout the country is that which involves animals, especially wild animals. When someone is injured or killed by a wild animal on private property, the property owner or manager may or may not be responsible for the incident.

In order to determine liability many issues must be examined, such as whether the property owner or manager was aware of a wild animal risk, whether the property owner warned visitors about the risk, and whether the property owner was negligent by not doing more to protect visitors from wild animals. Back in June, we wrote about a court finding that a golf club was not liable for a fatal alligator attack that took place on its property. Now this week, out west, a judge has decided that a widow cannot sue the government for her husband's killing by a goat in a national park.

National park staff had apparently been aware that this aggressive goat was harassing park visitors for some time, but they had failed to remove or kill the goat in order to prevent tragic attacks like this.

The widow argued that by not doing more to protect visitors from this known hazard, the park staff, employees of the federal government, were negligent. However, the Federal Tort Claims Act bans lawsuits that involve discretion related to public policy, so a judge has said that these negligence claims cannot move forward.

However, a wrongful death claim, based on allegations that park rescue staff botched efforts to save the man, may continue, the judge said.

While the outcome of this case is still pending, it is an example of a few of the complexities in premises liability--both when it comes to wild animals and the federal government.

Source: Seattle Times, "Judge dismisses most claims in fatal-goat-attack suit," Aug. 22, 2012

  • Our Atlanta premises liability law firm handles cases like the one discussed in this post. For more information about our practice, visit our dog and animal attacks page.

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