If you have been injured by a cow or other livestock roaming in the road in South Carolina, the South Carolina Supreme Court says you must prove ordinary negligence on the part of the livestock owner. In a recent opinion, the Court noted that the strict liability statute concerning liability and damages for injuries to persons and properties does not apply to roaming livestock unless the plaintiff can prove the owner was negligent in some manner. The most common example of negligence is the failure to secure a gate or failure to mend a fence which thereby allowed the livestock to roam beyond the owners property. Plaintiff must also show the owner “knew or should have known” that the fence or gate was open or in need of repair.
In Williams v. Smalls, the plaintiff was injured when she ran into a cow in the middle of the roadway owned by the defendant. The plaintiff admitted she could not prove ordinary negligence on the part of the defendant, i.e. she could not show he knew of a failure in the fence or gate and failed to remedy it. Instead, she asserted the the strict liability statute concerning livestock made the defendant liable for her damages:
Section 47-7-130 of the South Carolina Code provides:
Whenever any domestic animals shall be found upon the lands of any other person than the owner or manager of such animals, the owner of such trespassing stock shall be liable for all damages sustained and for the expenses of seizure and maintenance. Such damages and expenses shall be recovered, when necessary, by action in any court of competent jurisdiction. And the trespassing stock shall be held liable for such damages and expenses, in preference to all other liens, claims or encumbrances upon it.
The Supreme Court held that since the cow was not “trespassing” simply by being on a public road, the strict liability statute was inapplicable to this situation and denied recovery to the plaintiff. The only way to recover in South Carolina for straying livestock is to prove ordinary negligence on the part of the owner of the cow!
If you have been injured by a cow, horse or other livestock roaming the roadways of South Carolina, call the Kerr Law Firm for a free consultation. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.