Can Landowners Face Premises Liability Actions in Rattlesnake Bite Claims?

Can Landowners Face Premises

The Denver Post reports that people and animals continue to be bitten by venomous rattlesnakes across the state. A family in Hayden says their dog was recently taken to Dr. Wayne Davis at Craig Veterinary Hospital for the treatment of two bite wounds and was administered anti-venom medicine. Davis has treated a total of 12 bitten animals so far this year. The veterinarian thinks the increase in the snake population stems from a surge in the population of ground squirrels–their preferred prey. Meanwhile, in the emergency rooms at St. Anthony’s, patients are being admitted for such bites also. During warmer months, rattlesnakes leave their dens and are active. Those riding bicycles are likely to encounter snakes along trails because they approach quickly and somewhat quietly. Recent attacks have involved a mountain bike rider, a dog owner trying to remove a snake from the dog’s mouth, a hiker, and a guest to a wedding.

Walters v. D & F Holdings

In the Colorado case Walters v. S&F Holdings LLC, the plaintiff, Brianna Walters, was attending the wedding of defendants Jason & Stacie Schuh, who leased a wedding hall. Willow Ridge Manor was owned by the other defendant, S & F Holdings. Walters was bitten by a rattlesnake in the parking lot during the event and suffered injuries. She claimed to be an invitee on the premises who was injured by the defendant’s negligence in allowing a dangerous condition to exist. In addition, she claimed the defendants exhibited willful and wanton behavior in failing to warn guests of the potential condition. This second claim seeks recovery for exemplary (punitive) damages based on purposeful conduct. This case is based on the Colorado Premises Liability Act, which clarifies when landowners are liable for dangerous conditions upon their property that cause injuries.

Court Findings

The court immediately dismissed the claim for exemplary damages, stating it was obviously futile, as no intent or malice was involved. The Schuhs (bride & groom) asserted that they did not qualify as landowners under the statute; instead, they stated they were also invitees, merely hosting the reception inside the building. Further, they contended that they did not cause the injury, as the plaintiff left the wedding reception and was in the parking lot when she encountered by indigenous wildlife. The court agreed with them, explaining that they did not owe a duty to the plaintiff under either the Premises Liability Act or common law because the injury resulted from indigenous wildlife. Requiring a landowner to protect invitees from native wildlife would place an unreasonable burden on them. The claims against all defendants were then dismissed.

When accidents resulting in injuries occur to parties while on the property of a landowner, the victim may be eligible for recovery under the Colorado Premises Liability Act. If you feel that your injury was the result of a business or property owner’s negligence, you should reach out to the Denver personal injury attorneys Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal. For a free initial consultation, contact the office at (303) 825-2223 today.

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