A 71-year-old woman in Palm Springs, California was stung over 1,000 times by a swarm of Africanized honeybees, commonly known as “Killer Bees,” but was expected to recover after a brief hospitalization. An approximate 80,000 bees were thought to be hidden underground in a cable box and reported to 911. A local bee removal company offered to remove and relocate the hive to allow the bees to continue producing pollen and honey, but presumably in locations outside of the suburbs.
According to this news article the bees were not visible above the street’s surface, so the woman could not have been forewarned of a dangerous condition or have voluntarily encountered the risk of a swarm of bees.
The bees were hidden from view inside an underground storage box controlled and serviced by the cable company. There was no reported apiary near the location of the underground hive. So would the woman have the right to sue for wild animal liability following bee stings?
The situation here may not involve the elderly victim suing the cable company. However, the question is whether she would have any legal remedy available to her. After all, she will be personally billed for the emergency vehicle transportation to the hospital, her medical care, and any property damage to her own home resulting from the bee swarm attack and clean-up.
Presented a different way: what if the stinging bees had originated from a neighbor’s apiary, or collection of beehives? Would that beekeeper have the legal duty to warn others, or else risk financially responsibility for harm following an injury?
The basic legal issue here involves negligence, and whether anyone associated with the bees has the legal duty to warn others of an inherently dangerous condition. Under California law, a landowner owes the duty of reasonable care to visitors who are invited for non-business purposes, including blocking or even removing the danger. A legal duty exists to those with a business purpose as well, including providing a warning of potential danger.
Here, the bees were not under any person’s care, so the duty to protect the public or warn of danger could not be imputed on any individual, including the cable company. If you live near an apiary in the Greater Los Angeles area and have been injured following a swarm of bee stings, speaking with a knowledgeable Sherman Oaks personal injury attorney about wild animal liability will provide guidance about a possible legal claim.