Legal Memorandum: Strict Liability for Wild Animal Bites

Issue: Under Guam law, is there strict liability for wild animal bites?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Strict liability; Wild animal bites or attacks
Jurisdiction: Guam
Cited Cases: 819 F.2d 555; 41 Cal. App. 776; 27 P.2d 348; 272 N.W.2d 422; 206 N.Y.S.2d 130; 183 P. 241; 369 P.2d 564
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

           Liability based on attacks by wild animals is a source of dispute between jurisdictions in the United States, and Guam does not seem to have addressed the issue. 

Numerous United States jurisdictions have viewed liability for wild animal bites as "strict."  Strict liability, most familiar in the products liability context, imposes liability for an act regardless of the fault of the actor.  It does, however, allow defenses, such as assumption of risk.

The leading case on this issue is Franken v. City of Sioux Center, 272 N.W.2d 422 (Iowa 1978).  In Franken, an Iowa city owned a tiger as a mascot and "pet."  The brother of the handler was bitten by the tiger following an attempt to pet it.  The court there phrased the standard as making the "possessor of a wild animal . . . subject to strict liability for harm caused by it even though it would not have happened but for the unexpectable innocent, negligent conduct of a third person, action of another animal or operation of a force of nature."  Id. at 424.  Interestingly, the court dealt with the split in authority by stating that "[o]ther than the label attached, there is no difference between the `absolute’ liability of our cases and the `strict’ liability of the Restatement, as applied to the present facts."  Id. at 425.

In Garelli v. Sterling-Alaska Fur & Game Farms, Inc., 25 Misc. 2d 1032, 206 N.Y.S.2d 130 (Sup. Ct. […]

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