Can You Sue A Farm If Their Livestock Causes A Car Accident?
When a negligent driver causes a car accident, they can be held legally responsible for any injuries sustained by the victims. Of course, not every accident is the result of driver negligence. There are cases where a non-driver’s reckless acts or omissions can lead to a serious accident.
For example, if a farmer allows their livestock to run free and onto a public road, they can be held legally liable if the animals create an obstruction that leads to an accident. Georgia law is actually quite explicit on this point: “No owner shall permit livestock to run at large on or to stray upon the public roads of this state.”
Georgia Court of Appeals Reverses Summary Judgment for Farm in Car-Hits-Cow Case
While you may not think accidents caused by farm animals are a real possibility, there are in fact many Georgia cases on this point. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed such a case. In Lavan v. Cannon Farms, Inc., their cows escaped from their fenced field on a 1,500-acre farm and wandered onto a nearby two-loan road. The plaintiff in this case was driving down said road at around 8:15 in the evening.
The rural road was unlit. The plaintiff saw another vehicle stopped on the road ahead of her. She decided to pass the van but as she drove around it, she hit one of the escaped cows and veered into a ditch. A second cow then “charged” towards the plaintiff’s vehicle, forcing her to go back onto the road and hit the first cow a second time.
The plaintiff sued the farm, alleging it was negligent in allowing the cows to escape, and that negligence led to her accident. Before the trial court, the farm moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence that its fences were damaged prior to the accident, but that afterwards the farmer owner learned that a pine tree had fallen on a section of fencing near the road. The plaintiff disputed this, noting that she had regularly driven past the farm and frequently saw cows wandering outside the fenced area.
The judge, however, granted the farm’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed that decision. At this stage of the case, the appellate court noted, the evidence was still in dispute as to how the cows got out. The farm’s theory that it must have been the “unforeseen” event of the tree falling on the fence was not “unequivocal.” As such, it was appropriate for a jury to hear the case.
Speak with a Georgia Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you are injured in an accident you have the right to take legal action to hold any negligent parties accountable. An experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer can assist you in reviewing the facts and determining the best course of action. Contact Shiver Hamilton Campbell today to schedule a consultation with a member of our Georgia personal injury team.