Was the Livestock Owner Negligent?

Often times, the question of a livestock owner’s liability for a livestock accident will be based on the law of negligence.  Keep in mind though, this is not the case in all states.  Some states require more than a showing of negligence, such as a willful act by the livestock owner.

There is a legal presumption that everyone has a duty to act reasonably to avoid foreseeable injuries to others.  When somebody fails to live up to that duty, or “breaches” that duty, that person may be liable for the damages that were cause by his carelessness, i.e., his “negligence.”

Somebody is negligent if he does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation.  Stated alternatively, somebody is  negligent if he fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.

In many livestock accidents then, the ultimate issue is whether the livestock owner acted carelessly or not.   Ask yourself, what would a reasonable livestock owner have done under the same circumstances?

If the livestock owner was in fact careless and did not act like a reasonable owner, he was negligent and is possibly liable for your injuries.  On the other hand, if his animal wandered onto the highway because of  an event over which he has no control and could not have reasonably anticipated, he likely was not negligent, and consequently, not liable.

Like most things in the law, whether a livestock owner breached a duty of care is not always black and white, but rather, somewhere in the shades of grey.  When a livestock accident occurs, the possible, important factors are limitless, but may include:

  • Whether there is any history of farm animals escaping from defendant’s property.
  • The condition of the gate and whether there were any visible problems with the gate or fence.
  • How often inspections were performed on the gate or fence.
  • If there was a defect in the gate or fence, whether the livestock owner had any notice of that defect or reason to suspect there was a defect.
  • Whether there was any history of leaving the gate unlocked or the fence unrepaired.
  • Whether the animal that escaped had any vicious propensities.
  • How well did the farmer maintain his property.