Problems with Fences and Gates

When a farm animal wanderers onto a highway and causes an accident, the question of a the livestock owner’s negligence often revolves around fences and gates.

Perhaps the owner acted carelessly by failing to close the gate, thereby allowing the animal to escape.  Or perhaps the gate was closed, but there was something wrong with the gate.  There may have been holes or loose wiring.  The gate may have simply not been high enough, allowing the animal to leap over it.  Perhaps the gate’s structure was too weak and a strong animal, like a bull, was able to stampede over it.

Owners have been found negligent for livestock accidents where there was evidence of inadequate fencing.  For example, in Summers v. Parker, 119 Cal.App.2d 214, a ranch owner was found to be negligent where the a fence on his ranch suffered from the following problems:

Wires were loose and hanging free from the poles.

  • Some posts were rotted and partly burned through.
  • Approximately five posts were not even imbedded into the ground, and simply rested on the ground’s surface.
  • The fence was lower (three feet) in some places than others.

A fence does not necessarily need to be in such disrepair in order to prove negligence against a livestock owner.  Perhaps in some cases, even one problem would be enough to show the livestock owner was negligent.  But generally, the more problems a fence has, the more convincing your argument will be that the livestock owner was indeed negligent.