Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas, issued an opinion addressing whether the ferae naturae doctrine limits a landowner’s liability when a wild animal on their property causes damages. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant owned a bed and breakfast (B&B) and a neighboring cabin on the property. In 2012, the defendant began renting out his B&B, primarily on the weekends. Before each rental, the owner hired a cleaning service to prepare the home for the incoming guests. This preparation included identifying any potential pest problems and utilizing a “bug bomb,” in cases where the housekeeper noticed a pest issue.
In 2014, the defendant leased the neighboring cabin to the plaintiff. The defendant often employed the plaintiff to do various maintenance work on the B&B. On previous occasions, the plaintiff notified the defendant that he observed spiders in the cabin and B&B. The defendant would tell the housekeepers of these sightings so that they could appropriately prepare the B&B for guests.
In preparation for incoming guests, the plaintiff asked the defendant to check on the B&B’s dishwasher and determine whether the sink was leaking. When the plaintiff was checking the sink, a brown recluse spider bit him. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant had any knowledge that there were brown recluse spiders on the property. Although, the defendant read reports that brown recluse spiders are often found in Texas, and he assumed they might exist on his property.