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Livestock Hit in Roadway

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who stated that her husband was killed when the semi-truck he was operating collided with a black Angus bull. The bull had escaped days earlier from a farm by pushing up a fence in an inadequately secured pasture. The bull then escaped a second time from an even more poorly enclosed pasture that a second farmer put the bull in after that second farmer captured the bull. The caller was beside herself and wanted to know who could be held responsible for her husband’s death.

It turns out in speaking with the woman that the crash happened on a moonless night at around 10:00 p.m., along a stretch of unlit highway.

The escaped black bull wandered into the roadway. The skid mark evidence suggested that her husband tried to stop after seeing the black animal but just did not have time to stop. The force of the impact with the 2500 lb. animal caused the steering controls on the tractor to break, resulting in a complete loss of control of the vehicle. The collision caused the widow to lose her husband and her children to lose their father.

What legal principles apply when a farm animal escapes and gets into the roadway and causes a crash?

One who owns or has charge of an animal has a duty to prevent the animal from injuring another person or property and must take reasonable care to prevent it from doing damage to others.

In other words, one who undertakes control of the management and care or custody of livestock must exercise reasonable care to prevent the livestock from doing damage to others.

A keeper of livestock is defined as one who, either with or without the owner’s permission, undertakes to manage, control, or care for an animal.

So the owner of the animal would be a keeper of livestock under the law. The second farmer, who took control of the animal, also would be viewed under the law as a keeper of livestock.

The person responsible for livestock must exercise ordinary care to not let the livestock stray out onto highways.

In the caller’s case, both the owner of the bull that was allowed to escape would potentially be liable, as well as the second farmer who corralled the bull and let it escape.

The second farmer’s negligence would not operate to extinguish the first farmer’s fault.

The law would likely see the negligent actions of the two farmers as concurrent causes of the harm that flowed from unreasonably permitting the animal to escape.

Of note, a potential defense would be that the deceased should have seen the large bull in the roadway and avoided it. Thus, the argument would be that the deceased semi-driver was at least partly at fault.

The crash was on a moonless night, and there are no street lights in the country. Further, the bull was itself black. Proving that the semi-driver could have seen the bull or anticipated that a black bull would run across the road into his path may prove difficult.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth