Monday, September 19, 2016

Liability burden shifted away from livestock owners

Owners of animals in Missouri that cause property damage are no longer liable unless negligence can be proven in court. The new law took effect Wednesday when the House and Senate overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto. Senate Bill 844 was sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who's also running for lieutenant governor. "If the farmer or rancher is neglectable in keeping up his fences or not taking care of his property, he's still liable," Parson said during floor debate. "The majority of the time somebody runs through a fence, and either the car is still there or they leave, and if the livestock get out then all of a sudden the farmer is liable for all of the damages that should occur … but simply what this says (is) if he absolutely did nothing wrong he should not be held responsible for that simply because he owns livestock." In his original veto message, Nixon said that nothing in the old law prevented livestock owners from pursuing action against a third party. Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph sided with the Democratic governor and opposed the measure. Schaaf read from Nixon's veto letter, "Under Senate Bill 844, the victim of the animal rampage would be left without recourse, despite playing no role in causing the damage, unless negligence on the part of either the owner of the animals or a third party can be proven," to which Schaff added, "that's going to be hard to do." "Even if the farmer was negligent, it may be difficult to prove it under the standard of (what) the court would require," he said. "There will be people that are denied justice as a result of this bill." Supporters argued that livestock owners should not be held liable if their cattle escape because a motorist crashed into their fence, which they said happens often. The bill also sparked heated debate among fellow Republicans on the Senate floor before the override vote was taken...more

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