An employee was bit by a spider at a construction site and suffered an infection. He didn’t sue his employer, but he did sue the owners of the site for negligence. Can the property owner be held liable for the spider bite?
Glenn Brantley was employed as an iron worker at the Oak Grove SES Power Plant construction project in Franklin, Texas.
One morning at the job site, he was looking over blueprints next to a “job box,” when he felt a sting on the inside of his left knee.
The sting made him flinch, and he fell against a piece of metal protruding from the job box which punctured his leg.
Brantley says the sting was a spider bite. He developed an infection from the bite and the puncture wound.
He sued Oak Grove Power Co. and two other firms for negligence, using the doctrine of “animals ferae naturae.”
The doctrine says a landowner can’t be held liable for the acts of animals in their natural habitat — at least under most circumstances.
Brantley noted that in a previous opinion, a Texas court wrote:
“A premises owner could be negligent with regard to wild animals found in artificial structures or places where they are not normally found.”
Brantley argued that the construction site owner provided building materials that had been left in a field and were infested with spiders and that he was in an artificial structure.
But the court didn’t buy it. It said Brantley was bit by a spider in its natural habitat in the normal course of its existence. The presence of the spiders wasn’t due to any negligent act by the land owner — it didn’t bring or draw them onto the property.
For that reason, the court granted Brantley summary judgment and tossed his negligence lawsuit.
(Brantley v. Oak Grove Power Co. et al, Texas 10th Court of Appeals, No. 10-12-00135-CV, 11/29/12)