Question: How Much Can An Injured Child Receive When Injured Due To Being Bite By A Pet Pig?
Answer: Zero, If Pig Owner Did NOT Know Or Have Reason To Know That The Pig Had Dangerous Propensities.
On April 19, 2011, 11-year-old Jake Gruber was a participant at Flat Rock River YMCA Camp. Jake’s mother was a chaperone. Marcus Toidolt, who worked as a naturalist at the camp, owned a pig that lived on YMCA’s premises 9 months of the year. Marcus had owned the pig for 6 years, and the pig had never injured anyone or exhibited any dangerous propensities. In fact, the pig was regularly allowed to roam freely on YMCA’s premises, and there had never been an incident. Marcus took a group of 12 children, including Jake, into the pig’s pen. The pen had 3 bars, but the pig could stick its nose through the bars. While inside the pen, Marcus dumped food out of a bucket so the children could watch the pig eat and pet it. After the pig ate, Marcus led the children out of the pen and locked the gate. Some of the children, including Jake, continued to watch the pig from outside the pen while Marcus was still inside the pen with the gate locked. While Jake was less than an arm’s length away from the pen, the pig lunged at Jake, stuck its head between the bars, and grabbed Jake’s hand. When the pig lunged at Jake, he was not attempting to feed or pet the pig, and the pig’s feeding bowl was not near him. The pig did not show any signs of agitation or aggression. Jake was taken to the emergency room where his hand was x-rayed, he was prescribed antibiotics, and he was told to follow up with his doctor. Nearly 2 years later, Jake and his mother filed a civil complaint. They alleged that the attack of the pig was the result of the negligence and carelessness of the Defendants and that as a result of the attack, Jake suffered and incurred medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages, all of which may continue in the future. They also alleged that the YMCA defendants knew or should have known that the pig had dangerous propensities and knew or should have known of the pig’s natural propensities.
The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and the trial court entered an extensive order granting summary judgment in favor of the YMCA defendants. The order provides, in part: The plaintiffs argue that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the animal at issue is domesticated. However, Indiana Code § 15–17–2–26 defines a domestic animal as “an animal that is not wild,” and specifically includes swine. This Court finds, and the plaintiffs later conceded at the summary-judgment hearing, that the pig at issue is a domesticated animal. The Indiana Court of Appeals holds that the owner of a domestic animal is not liable for injuries caused by the animal unless the animal had dangerous propensities known, or which should have been known, to the owner…. If an individual animal lacks dangerous propensities, the rule is simply that the owner of a domestic animal is bound to know the natural propensities of the particular class of animals to which it belongs.
On appeal, the plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Here, the plaintiffs concede that pigs are domestic animals and that the general rule is that owners of domestic animals are liable for injuries caused by the animal only if the owner knows or has reason to know that the animal has dangerous propensities. Nevertheless, the plaintiffs argue that pigs, although domestic animals, can’t be compared to a dog or cat which provide companionship as someone’s pet. As such, they ask us to impose a strict-liability standard when the owner of a domesticated animal exposes someone to an abnormal risk. They claim that without such a standard, people like them would have no recourse for potential serious injuries sustained when they are exposed to an abnormal risk by a domesticated animal. We, however, decline the plaintiffs’ invitation to impose a strict-liability standard on owners of domestic animals that are not cats or dogs. This is because our Supreme Court has made clear that this rule applies to all domestic animals, not just cats and dogs. Because the plaintiffs have put forth no convincing reason to impose strict liability on owners of domestic animals that are not cats or dogs, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the YMCA defendants. 34 N.E.3d 264