Bee Safe: Can Someone Be Liable for an Insect Sting on Their Property?
Buzz, buzz. When you hear the sound of a busy bee, your first instinct might be to run away. But despite their painful stingers and beady eyes, bees do a lot of good things for the world. 1/3 of the world’s food is pollination dependent. This means that without the hard work of these tiny creatures, we would not have tasty foods like apples, almonds, and squash. Bees also contribute about $15 million every year to crop production in the United States, help to stabilize soil structure, and serve as an indicator species for the general health of our ecosystems. And of course, we can’t forget about the honey.
But while our world would be vastly different without bees, an encounter with one is not always pleasant. Bees and their scarier relatives, like wasps and hornets, can pose a threat to people with allergies. Their stings can lead to serious health concerns if someone is attacked by multiple insects.
Learning About Bees (And Other Stinging Insects)
Bees, including honey bees and bumblebees, are generally the least dangerous in the family of black-and-yellow insects. Covered with fluffy hair, bees are non-aggressive. For honey bees in particular, stinging a person is a bad idea. When they sting, they cannot pull their barbed stinger back out, which causes fatal damage to their abdominal structure.
For other stinging insects, like wasps and hornets, stinging does not have such personal consequence, which means they are free to repeatedly sting. To make matter worse, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets, which all have the same distinctive color, tend to be aggressive. Unlike bees, they do not contribute to pollination. Instead, they survive as predators, feasting on smaller insects like flies and ants.
For a more in-depth look at the differences between bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets, check out this article.
The Symptoms of a Bee Sting
After a sting, most people will experience mild symptoms. The common symptoms include an initial sharp pain followed by the developed of a raised welt. The welt often has a white mark in the center where the skin was punctured. When someone experiences a single insect sting, they can generally treat it with home remedies, like removing the stinger with the edge of a credit card and cleaning and icing the sting site to reduce pain and swelling.
People who are allergic to insect stings might experience a more severe reaction. Called anaphylaxis, a severe reaction could include symptoms like:
- Swelling of the face, lips, or throat
- Hives or itching
- Breathing problems
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Sudden drop in blood pressure
- Vomiting or nausea
- Loss of consciousness
Without immediate treatment, like an injection of epinephrine, people with allergic reactions can die from even a single sting.
Even if someone does not have allergies, multiple stings can still be dangerous. If someone comes into contact with a large amount of insects, numerous stings can lead to an accumulation of dangerous toxins. If someone is stung multiple times, they might experience symptoms like dizziness, vertigo, nausea or vomiting, or even convulsions. Multiple stings are particularly dangerous to very young or elderly people, and to people with underlying health issues.
Can You Hold Someone Liable for a Bee Sting?
In most cases, serious incidents with bee, wasps, or other stinging creatures occur as a result of unintentional encounters. For example, someone might accidentally step on a bee while working in their garden or find a hornet’s nest while cleaning out their garage. Most people do not willingly keep large amounts of these insects around their property, and take steps to remove or kill these buzzing, stinging intruders.
But what happens when an insect-related injury occurs on someone else’s property? Can a victim hold someone liable for the presence of dangerous insects on their property?
A Matter of Forseeability
If an incident involves a random encounter with a single insect, it will be difficult to hold someone liable. If a bee wanders into a backyard party and stings someone, the incident was likely unforeseeable. On the other hand, if someone knew about a nearby hornet’s nest yet still held their backyard party without warning their guests, the liability might be difference. Since they knew about the dangerous condition, yet failed to take steps to repair it or warn others about it, they could be potentially liable for any injuries. Just like someone would warn guests about a missing step by the door, they should also warn them about the presence of dangerous insects.
When determining liability for insect stings, it all comes down to the issue of foreseeability. Unfortunately, this means that holding someone accountable can be tricky. Unless someone is a beekeeper who deliberately keeps insects around, many people might not know that there are bees, hornets, or other insects lurking around their property.
Preventing Bee Stings
Whether you’re allergic or just hoping to avoid a painful encounter, you can decrease your chances of a sting by avoiding floral patterns and strong fragrances, wearing shoes or long pants when working or playing outside, and avoiding startled, rapid movements. Do not attempt to destroy or remove nests on your property without professional help.
Hornets and wasps might be scary, but when it comes to bees, you can often take a more peaceful approach—after all, they have important work to do!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.