Negligence of Act of God? Ninety-Five-Year-Old California Man Stung Over 600 Times By Bees

This week, I was milking sympathy after being stung twice by bees on two successive days walking our dog, Molly, through our nearby forest. The sympathy then came to an end when I saw this story about an elderly man in Redondo Beach, California.

It is amazing that a ninety-five-year-old man could survive such physical punishment. These are likely Africanized bees.

Thankfully, there is a legal angle. Authorities believe that the bees were sent into a frenzy by an effort of a fumigator to get rid of a hive on a nearby apartment roof. The man simply walked by and was attacked.

The question is liability. While bees can be an act of God, this could also be viewed as proximately caused by a negligent effort to get rid of a hive. Obviously, you cannot simply say “bees will be bees” if you are the cause of the swarming. We have previously seen some interesting causation cases with bees. In this case, assuming that the exterminator did not first wrap or contain the hive, it could be viewed as a case of negligence with the foreseeable result of a swarming of the bees.

Ages ago, I worked as an assistant bee keeper at the Chesapeake Center for Environmental Research as a summer intern. For a guy who have never liked bees, it was not my favorite job which included taking out shelves for kingdoms of bees. As I recall, the researcher was trying to reverse the process leading to Africanized bees. I much preferred working in the swamp like summer, but it certainly left a long impression on me.

Source: NBC

20 thoughts on “Negligence of Act of God? Ninety-Five-Year-Old California Man Stung Over 600 Times By Bees”

  1. I am an expert. No, really, I am. I’ve been a commercial beekeeper for 20yrs and I have been removing bees from homes and other public buildings for 15 of those years. I may not be an expert in the tort aspect, but everything else. No problem.

    First of all, the story reads “a fumigator.” What does that mean? Who is the fumigator? A beekeeper? A licensed exterminator? A maintenance man for the apt. complex? A resident? A passerby? Who, exactly? Knowing the answer might shed some light on if there was negligence.

    Is it reasonable to expect someone not familiar with a beehive to expect fumigating them would result in thousands of angry bees looking to sting anyone within a 100 yard radius? Just ask yourself.

    Who here knows how many bees in a beehive are typically assigned the role of defense? How many bees are outside of the hive at any point in time? What is the typical number of bees in a typical hive? How long has this particular hive been there? Are they healthy? Are they abnormally aggressive? What time of day is the best time to fumigate bees? Hell, IS fumigating the best thing to do anyway?

    Is it reasonable to expect an everyday exterminator to be familiar with these questions?

    A licensed exterminator likely has insurance for these matters a tort case were to be brought, it would most likely be settled out of court.

    As an exercise, we’ll just ignore the possibility that the fumigator was a resident, passerby, or a maintenance man for the apt. complex. Let’s assume that he is a beekeeper.
    First of all, define “beekeeper.” Is it simply someone who keeps bees? Someone who wants to keep bees? Someone who dabbles in it from time to time with the one hive he has in his garden? Someone who owns 10,000 colonies of bees and transports them thousands of miles every year?

    Otteray Scribe writes, “The beekeeper is supposed to be an expert and knew he was dealing with aggressive bees.”
    Is he supposed to be, or do you merely expect him to be? How would you tell an aggressive hive from a docile one?
    Scribe also writes, “I am from the South–a person who deals with bees in any context is a “beekeeper.””
    I am in the south, too, and that’s just wrong.

    Blind Faithness writes, “Plus, Africanized bees are not kept for honey the way that honey bees are kept.”
    Well, that’s just not true. Africanized honeybees are great honey producers and are commonly kept in remote places in the Southwest.

    Even our esteemed professor suggests that the exterminator or beekeeper should “wrap or contain the hive.”
    Okay, if you want a cloud of angry bees on your hands, you go right ahead and you do that.

    Two points. 1) I can be a jackass at times. 2) Most everyone knows absolutely nothing about keeping or removing honeybees.

    Another thing, this is not like the spilled bees on the freeway story.
    The bees in question do not belong to the beekeeper or the exterminator. They belong to the apt. complex. Like it or not, if the bees are on your property, they belong to you. They are your property.

    Who is ultimately responsible, I would agree, it is a very complicated question.



  2. I would have to agree that if the exterminator/ beekeeper knew that the bees might get aggressive, he had a duty to take precautions and warn the public.

  3. Blind Faithiness:

    “Maybe its time for Americans to buck up and start suing god for all of the damages inflicted on humans.”

    hmmm . . .

  4. Vague torts memory…

    Aren’t bees considered inherently dangerous animals; i.e. in the same category as elephants and tigers?

    Example, a beekeeper can be held liable via ‘inherently dangerous animal’ theory if his bee hive attacked someone on his property; invited or not?

  5. From The Simpsons…

    At Goldsboro’s Honey, two beekeepers discuss the day.

    Beekeeper 2 = voice of Adam West….


    Beekeeper 1: Well, sure is quiet in here today.

    Beekeeper 2: Yes, a little too quiet, if you know what I mean.

    Beekeeper 1: Hmm…I’m afraid I don’t.

    Beekeeper 2: You see, bees usually make a lot of noise. No noise —
    suggests no bees!

    Beekeeper 1: Oh, I understand now. Oh look, there goes one now.

    Beekeeper 2: To the Beemobile!

    Beekeeper 1: You mean your Chevy?

    Beekeeper 2: Yes.

  6. And you think bees are a problem:

    SUV Crashes Into Kansas City Family’s Roof

    A Kansas City family was shocked to find an SUV had crashed into their attic on Wednesday night, reports.

    The six residents of the home said that they discovered the vehicle after they went to investigate a loud boom that was heard around 8:30 p.m.

    “We were in my daughter’s room watching TV when we heard the noise,” Michelle Brown told

    Brown said her son discovered the SUV as he was leaving to go to the store. “He said, ‘Momma there’s a truck in the ceiling!’ And I’m like, ‘A truck in the ceiling?’ And we all ran out of the house.”

  7. The commercial nature of the thing is important and the assumption of specialized knowledge, including potential dangers. I think the issue is what is the standard-of-care in the industry. People are entitled to expect half-way competent professionals … and that’s about it.

  8. I’m from the south too, OS, but I disagree with the casual use of the term “beekeeper”. In the mountains of NC, a beekeeper keeps hives of bees and an exterminator kills rodents and bugs.

    Both may be professions that require knowledge of bee behavior and safety protocol with regard to the public, but they aren’t the same thing, IMO. Not a big deal though; just splitting hairs.


    If I swat at a bee and it becomes irritated and stings the person next to me, am I liable for that bees action? If I chase a deer out of my garden and it runs out into traffic and is struck by a car, am I liable for the deer’s action?

    The litigation of the behavior of wild animals is a slippery slope. I’m sure ambulance chasers are all for it, though. Maybe its time for Americans to buck up and start suing god for all of the damages inflicted on humans.

  9. When I wrote “beekeeper” that included the exterminator, colloquially. I am from the South–a person who deals with bees in any context is a “beekeeper.”

  10. An exterminator disturbed the bees that had made a hive on an apartment roof, according to the post. Its not a case of a person keeping bees. Plus, Africanized bees are not kept for honey the way that honey bees are kept.

  11. I may be wrong, but it appears to me the beekeeper had a duty to warn or put up some kind of barrier if there is the possibility of foot traffic in the vicinity of the hive. The beekeeper is supposed to be an expert and knew he was dealing with aggressive bees. Yellow warning tape is cheap at your local building supply store–seems as if there was really no excuse for cordoning off the area at a save distance from the hive before starting work.

    I am impressed with the gentleman’s hardiness–we should all have his constitution and physical prowess.

  12. How much longer til we see the landmark case of Everybody vs Everybody?

    Can’t we skip the in-between and, as a whole society, file a class action lawsuit against us all. Seems like we’ve decided through courts and legislation that our society can’t bother with helping one another anymore. Instead, we’ll just beat each others brains in and call it “progress”.

  13. That is hard one…It all depends on the Jury….or possibly the Judge on a dispositive motion….It is not like this is an everyday reoccurring event….what steps were taken to neutralize the bees…to warn the public…

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