Friday, November 05, 2004

Torts and Domesticated Animals

Over at BenefitsBlog, Janell is talking about a funny case she got from Ernie the Attorney:

In this case we are called on to determine whether a cow is an uninsured motor vehicle under appellants’ insurance policy. We hold that it is not. On the night of September 5, 2001, appellants William R. Mayor, Jr., and Wendy M. Mayor were traveling on Interstate 76 west near milepost 41 when their vehicle struck a cow owned by Thomas Wedding. Apparently several of Mr. Wedding's cows had wandered onto the highway. . .

There appears to be no dispute that there was a collision; the cow was not insured at the time of the collision; and that the cow caused the collision. The dispute in this case is whether the cow was a "land motor vehicle" as defined in the policy. While a cow is designed for operation on land, we do not believe a cow is a "motor vehicle." The policy at issue does not separately define "motor vehicle;" therefore we must look to the common, ordinary meaning of this term. The American Heritage Dictionary defines "motor vehicle" as, "a self-propelled, wheeled conveyance that does not run on rails." Id. at 817, 374 N.E.2d 146. A cow is self-propelled, does not run on rails, and could be used as a conveyance; however, there is no indication in the record that this particular cow had wheels. Therefore, it was not a motor vehicle and thus was not a "land motor vehicle" as defined in the policy. The trial court properly found that appellants were not entitled to uninsured motorist coverage. See State Auto. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Cleveland Carriage Co. (1984), 98 Ohio App.3d 361, 648 N.E.2d 590 (finding that a horse was not a motor vehicle for purposes of uninsured motorist coverage;) Wilbur v. Allstate Ins. Co. (Nov. 29, 1991), 11th Dist. No. 90-G-1600, 1991 WL 252851 (finding that a horse and buggy was not a motor vehicle for purposes of uninsured motorist coverage.) To hold otherwise would be a manifestly absurd result. King, supra at 213, 519 N.E.2d 1380.

For our law review write on, we were talking about trying to use the negligent entrustment doctrine to sue gun manufacturers who deliberately flooded the black market with guns. One of the elements of negligent entrustment is that the thing entrusted be a "dangerous instrumentality." One of the cases we were given in our canned research was Matkin v. Country Skillet Poultry Co., 514 So.2d 1356:

Although the Matkins argue that the term "chattel" ... is broad enough to include chickens, we agree with the trial court's conclusion that chickens confined in wire cages are not "dangerous instrumentalities" as required by the doctrine of negligent entrustment.


Indeed, the Matkins readily admitted, in their memorandum in opposition to defendant's motion for summary judgment, that "This is not a case involving killer chickens . . . ."

If you are a law student who is keeping score at home:

Cows are not motor vehicles, and chickens are not dangerous instrumentalities.


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