Slate’s Law Blog

Does Premises Liability Law Apply to Animal Attacks on Private Property?

Does Premises Liability Law Apply to Animal Attacks on Private Property?

If Florida and New Mexico had a contest to see where nature unleashed its fury in more frightening wins, New Mexico just might pull off an underdog victory. New Mexico has more lightning strikes per capita than any other state, including Florida. We do not have hurricanes in New Mexico, but we do have temperatures in the triple digits for weeks every summer. There are no alligators here, but there are plenty of venomous snakes, and New Mexico is even home to the endearingly venomous Gila monster. So far, no cases of N. fowleri infection, the so-called brain-eating amoeba, have been reported in New Mexico, but it shares a border with Texas, and Texas and Florida account for the vast majority of N. fowleri cases nationwide.  

New Mexico’s snakes, spiders, and scorpions cause numerous cases of injury, and while its bears, mountain lions, and coyotes rarely attack humans, they are more than capable of causing severe injury. When, if ever, is the owner of the land where an animal attack occurred legally responsible for the injuries caused by the animal? To find out more about premises liability claims arising from animal attacks, contact a Santa Fe slip-and-fall and premises liability lawyer.

Ferae Naturae and Premises Liability Laws

The basis assumption of premises liability law is that the owner of a piece of real estate is legally responsible for preventable injuries sustained by visitors to the property. Slip and fall accidents at places of business are common premises liability claims. Premises liability can also apply when guests at social gatherings get injured and when a preventable accident occurs outdoors on privately owned land.

Regarding animal attacks, the owner of the property is only responsible for the attack if they are intentionally keeping the animal on the land. Therefore, premises liability applies if a domestic animal attacks you on its owner’s property, such as if a party host’s dog bites you while you are attending a party there. The dog would not be on the premises if the owner had not exerted efforts to make it stay there.

Property owners do not have the same responsibility regarding wild animals. If a coyote wanders onto the party host’s property, it is not the host’s responsibility to ensure that the coyote does not bite you or to post a “beware of coyotes” sign. To cite a more common example, if your friend’s house is built on ten acres of land, it is not your friend’s responsibility to ensure that there are no venomous snakes anywhere on his property; that would be virtually impossible. The doctrine of ferae naturae means that where wild animals go within their natural habitat is their business. Meanwhile, guests injured by animals at zoos and similar businesses that intentionally place wild animals in closer proximity to humans than would normally occur do have grounds to sue for premises liability.

Contact Slate Stern About Car Accident Lawsuits

Slate Stern is a personal injury lawyer who represents plaintiffs injured in premises liability accidents. Contact Slate Stern in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or call (505)814-1517 to discuss your case.