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Public Property, Animal Attacks, and Premises Liability

Who Is Liable for Wild Animal Attacks on Public Property?

The media is not shy about publicizing animal attacks. We all love our animal friends, but seeing a raccoon digging through your trash is much different than witnessing a bear. Recently, more and more California residents have spotted mountain lions lurking in public places or brave deers playing in the park.

Usually, these animals keep to themselves. However, on the rare occasion that they attack, you may need a premises liability lawyer. The premises liability attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are always here to answer any questions you may have about premises liability claims and available damages.


  • Black bears and coyotes have been known to sneak into Pasadena neighborhoods and pools. The City of Pasadena denies jurisdiction over wild animals and any damage caused by them.
  • The town of Irvine has urged citizens to be careful as there have been as many as four coyote attacks on children within a week.

Wildlife Sighting on the Rise in California

Unfortunately, wildlife sightings are becoming more frequent in California. According to the California Veterinary Medical Association President, “Drier conditions, fire devastation and increased activity this summer have combined to drive animals out of the hills and into populated areas in search of food and water.”

He then goes on to clarify that people have a natural affinity for animals, but that it’s important to understand the difference between domesticated pets and wildlife that just appear to be friendly and approachable. Under no circumstances should people take action and put their lives at risk in the event of a visit by a wild animal.

Irvine, in particular, has been a hot spot for many coyote attacks, especially when it comes to children. Not only have animals been found in restaurant dumpsters, but an attack on a two-year-old has happened in their own garage.

“These incidents highlight the importance of communities working together to eliminate sources of food that may attract wildlife to neighborhoods,” Capt. Rebecca Hartman of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said. “When coyotes are fed, either intentionally or unintentionally by food being left out, they can become a public safety threat.”

Who Is Liable When a Wild Animal Attacks in a Public Space?

Public Property, Animal Attacks, and Premises Liability

California regards ownership of domesticated animals differently than it does wild animals. In most cases, the owner of the animal is held responsible and must take reasonable precautions to keep the public safe from their animals. A great example of this is the California Leash Law, which regulates the owner’s responsibility for their dog while in public. Generally, the owner won’t be held liable for unforeseen circumstances unless they were negligent.

By virtue, wild animals are unpredictable and uncontrollable. So is a business responsible for a wild animal attack? If a business owns a wild animal, however, they are held under stricter liability and almost always will be held responsible for their animal’s actions.

California law handles each case differently, but expects that property owners do their due diligence when it comes to public safety. There are exemptions, however, depending on the creature.

When it comes to insect bites, case law suggests: a property owner “does not have a duty to protect or prevent bites from harmful insects where: (1) it is not generally known that the specific insect is indigenous to the area; (2) the homeowner has no knowledge that a specifically harmful insect is prevalent in the area where his residence is located; (3) the homeowner has on no occasion seen the specific type of harmful insect either outside or inside his home; and (4) neither the homeowner nor the injured guest has seen the specific insect that bit the guest either before or after the bite occurred.”

When a wild animal attack happens in a public space, the local government or property owner can be held liable for injuries. The California Tort Claims Act relinquishes liability for injuries caused by “natural conditions” or “unimproved public property.” Wild animals are considered as natural conditions. A state or property owner can be held liable if:

  1. The owner took action to increase the risk of harm by a wild animal.
  2. The owner is aware that a special animal is posing a risk and fails to take action to protect the public.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages

The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Contact West Coast Trial Lawyers to Find Out How We Can Help

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a premises liability accident, an attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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