10th Circuit, Animal Law, Insurance, Pets, Violence

Tiger Goes Tiger, Insurance Company Doesn’t Have to Pay

If this tiger reminds you of your pet cat, you are an idiot.

There’s a Chris Rock joke about the Siegfried & Roy tiger attack: “That tiger didn’t go crazy, that tiger went tiger.” With that in mind, I bring you this latest decision from the Tenth Circuit, via the National Law Journal:

An insurance company does not have to pay a Kansas family $100,000 for an accident in which a Siberian tiger attacked and killed their daughter during her senior photo shoot, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

On Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Safeco Insurance Company of America does not have to pay damages in a wrongful death suit because the homeowners policy bought by the tiger’s owners excluded coverage for business pursuits.

I’ll admit, it took me a second to appreciate what was going on here. As it turns out, the only actor that behaved reasonably in this situation was the tiger (and the Tenth Circuit)….

There are so many bad actors here, I feel like I have to make up some awards and hand them out.

The Failure to Pay Attention During Evolutionary Biology Class Award goes to: the late Haley Hilderbrand, the teenage girl mauled to death by the tiger. I’m very sorry a young girl died. It’s tragic. But who the hell needs to get their senior photo taken next to a live tiger? Human reason and intellect evolved to allow us to out-compete tigers. But if you are not going to avail yourself of that big homo sapien brain, well, your muscles and claws are no match for the tiger’s.

I don’t care how many times you’ve watched The Hangover: do not mess with tigers.

The Parental Instincts of a Reptile Award goes to: Mr. and Mrs. Hilderbrand.

If your daughter asks if she can go play with a tiger, you say no. It’s that freaking simple.  Because if you say yes, your daughter is about to get eaten — or at the very least receive some bad touches from that creepy golfer Frosted Flakes dude.

If the kid comes in and says “Mommy, I want my picture taken while I’m standing in the middle of a busy highway, at night, in the rain, with dark clothes on” wouldn’t a basically conscious parent say no? How is playing with a goddamn tiger any different? It’s a tiger, not a really big house cat.

The Casually Messing With Forces He Can’t Possibly Control Award goes to: tiger handler Doug Billingsley. From the NLJ:

Thomas Warner Jr. of the Warner Law Offices in Wichita, Kan., who represented Haley’s father, Randy Hilderbrand, in both the wrongful death suit and the related insurance dispute, faults the tiger’s handler. “Some say, ‘How could the family let their daughter get her picture taken with a tiger?’ ” Warner said. “They didn’t know how lax this tiger handler would be. He held back a 700-pound, full-grown adult with only a dog leash.”

Granted, I think any parent should instinctively know that tigers are dangerous. But whenever you are in the position of holding 700 pounds of carnivore around a child, you’ve got to be more careful than that.

Finally, The Worst Written Insurance Contract Award goes to: tiger owners, Keith and Sharon Billingsley.

These guys owned a for-profit farm, and ran an entertainment business with the animals. Live, dangerous, rescue animals. Yet according to the court, their homeowners insurance policy didn’t cover business uses of the animals:

The Billingsleys turned to Safeco for coverage under their homeowners insurance policy. Safeco filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court, arguing that it was not required to provide coverage because Haley’s death arose out of the operation of a business, and the homeowners policy contained an exclusion for business pursuits.

After a bench trial, the district court concluded the insurance policy did not cover the attack. The 10th Circuit agreed, holding that “the district court correctly applied Kansas law to the insurance policy in question. The homeowners policy does not apply to the Billingsleys’ exotic animal rescue and exhibition business, nor does any other exception in the policy apply to the facts of this case.”

Please, do not feed your children to tigers. And do not expect your insurance company to bail you out if your tiger does what is natural and eats the weakest and the youngest. Respect nature.

Wrongful Death by Tiger Attack Not Covered by Homeowners Policy, 10th Circuit Rules [National Law Journal]

Earlier: A Whale of a Lawsuit?

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