Legal Memorandum: Strict Liability for Wild Animal Attacks

Issue: Under Guam law, can a landlord be strictly liable for a wild animal attack?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Strict liability; Wild animal attacks; Landlord
Jurisdiction: Guam
Cited Cases: 159 N.Y.S. 683
Cited Statutes: § 2338 of the Code
Date: 04/01/2001

           The general rule in United States jurisdictions is that a landlord is not strictly liable for wild animal attacks when the wild animal is strictly under the tenant’s control.  See, e.g., Collins v. Otto, 369 P.2d at 566. 

Several cases, including one quite recent, have held a "host" strictly liable if the host procured the presence of the animal on the premises.  In Stamp v. Eighty-Sixth Street Amusement Co., 95 Misc. 599, 159 N.Y.S. 683 (Sup. Ct. 1916), for example, a theatre proprietor was found liable for injuries received by an audience member in a panic caused by performing lions escaping and entering the orchestra area.  The court’s analysis is instructive, and applies to this case.  The court first noted that it "has been frequently held that one who harbors a vicious animal is subject to the same liability as the owner of the animal," and "any third person shares in the owner’s liability if by his acts he actually `keeps’ the vicious animal himself, or if he takes part in the owner’s keeping of it."  Id. 159 N.Y.S. at 684.  The court found that the proprietor of the show was equally responsible "in the first instance for the keeping of the animals on its premises.  It had itself procured the act, and invited the public to the theater to see it, and unless security was assured it took part in the maintenance of a public nuisance." Id. at 684-85.  In answering the proprietor’s statement that […]

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