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In Your Court: When llamas attack

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 10:13 a.m. CDT

The following is a simplified fact scenario.

On four occasions, a plaintiff cared for animals on a defendant’s family farm. The defendant’s farm had chickens, turkeys, horses and llamas. The defendant showed the plaintiff how to care for the farm animals.

When the plaintiff took care of the farm animals, a llama was territorial of the barn. It allegedly would charge the plaintiff when he approached the barn, pushed the plaintiff into the barn walls while he cleaned the barn, spit on the plaintiff, and once reared and gave the plaintiff a bloody nose.

One summer, the plaintiff and the defendant agreed that the plaintiff could have a dog if he cared for the defendant’s family farm for a week while the defendant was away. The plaintiff asked the defendant whether the llama would be locked in a stall; the defendant ultimately decided the animal would not be locked up.

While the plaintiff took care of the defendant’s farm, he noticed the llama roaming around the barn’s hallway. The plaintiff went around the animal and cleaned the stalls. About 15 minutes later, the llama stared to come near. The plaintiff tried to walk around it, but it reared and cornered the plaintiff against a back wall.

Against the back wall was a half-wall separating a stall. The plaintiff tried to jump over the half-wall to safety. However, the llama got its head between the plaintiff’s legs while the plaintiff jumped and flipped the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell and thought he had dislocated his arm. However, the stall safely divided the plaintiff and llama, and the plaintiff eventually escaped the barn.

The plaintiff then sued the defendant for his injuries. The defendant countered with the legal affirmative defense of “primary implied assumption of risk.” This affirmative defense is applicable when parties contract with each other; it excuses the defendant from a legal duty to the plaintiff when the plaintiff implicitly consents to encounter an inherent and known risk.

The court found a contract existed between the parties, and the plaintiff assumed the risk the llama would attack because he knew it was loose before entering the barn, and he knew from past experiences that the animal was aggressive toward him.

The scenario is derived from the case Edwards v. Lombardi, 2013 IL (3d) 120518.

• Anthony Scifo is a resident of Kane County and an associate attorney with Shaw, Jacobs, Goostree and Associates P.C. in St. Charles, where he concentrates in divorce and family law, personal injury and wrongful death. His goal with this occasional column is to help educate the public regarding the court system and the law. Contact him with general legal questions at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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