Longhorn Snakehouse: Virginia Woman Bitten By Venomous Copperhead In Restaurant

LongHornSteakhouseLogo1600px-Copperhead_snakeRachel Myrick may not have had the ideal dining experience but she may have the good lawsuit against the Longhorn Steakhouse in Fredericksburg Virginia after being bitten by a highly venomous copperhead snake while walking into the restauraunt.

Myrick told Chron.com that she was walking into the Longhorn Steakhouse on Sept. 12th when she felt a sharp pain in her left foot.   She found an eight-inch snake still attached to her foot.  The fortunate thing in an otherwise unfortunate situation is that her boyfriend Michael Clem used to breed snakes and correctly identified the snake for emergency and medical personnel as a copperhead.  Later swelling prompted the use of the potentially dangerous treatment regimen for such bites and days of hospitalization.

The accounts indicate that Myrick was on the property of Longhorn when bitten but may not have been in the structure itself.  That could be a critical distinction.  Businesses are not always liable for wild animals but may be liable for negligence if they had prior notice or problems with such animals and their guests.

Under the common law, there is strict liability for injuries caused by wild animals in your possession. However, that would raise the question of whether these alligators are in the legal possession or control of Disney since they occupy the lake. This was the issue in Woods-Leber v Hyatt Hotels of Puerto Rico (1997), Hyatt was found not to be strictly liable for an attack on its grounds by a rabid mongoose on a guest. It was not viewed as possessing the animal since wild animals could move freely on to the property. The same issue came up recently in the United States in the case of the woman who had her face ripped off by a neighbor’s pet chimpanzee and a case in Arizona involving a javelina. Likewise, we recently discussed his issue with an alligator attack on a Disney property.  Assuming that the alligators were viewed in the same way as the Woods-Leber case, there would remain a powerful case of negligence. There is the added burden according to invitees on a business property and the duty to fully warn and make safe the property from known and latent dangers.

It is often difficult to gauge the basis for such legal action until you are in discovery to confirm prior incidents and the precautions taken on such risks.  Rural areas often have wildlife in the area that are not legally under the dominion and control of businesses.  It is also not clear if this was a wild snake or a possible release by another individual (creating the possibility of an superseding intervening actor in the causal chain).

 

Myrick was in the hospital for five and a half days taking IV nausea medication and pain treatments.

9 thoughts on “Longhorn Snakehouse: Virginia Woman Bitten By Venomous Copperhead In Restaurant

  1. Poor lady. She’s lucky that copperheads are not the most venomous snakes here in the US, although I’m sure she was feeling pretty unwell. Their bite causes tissue damage and breaks down red blood cells.

    I think it’s tough for any business owner to keep away snakes from the outside of the premises. They would have to all install snake fencing all the way to 18 inches under the ground, and then running out underground another foot or so. That’s just not conceivable for most business owners. Also, an 8 inch long juvenile would be really difficult to see and get rid of, so they would need staff standing outside guarding against snakes.

    I grew up in copper head and water moccasin country. And now I live in rattler country. You have to keep a look out for them, and often, I don’t see them until I’m really close. Luckily, unlike copperheads, rattle snakes give warning.

    I do not think it’s fair to hold the business owner liable for a bit that happened outside.

  2. I wouldn’t take the case. Hard to hold the property owner to the standard of no snakes on the premises if she was bitten outside the premises. She felt it “as she walked through the entrance” raising the issue of where it attacked … if it did attack. Here’s an interesting line from the article from her boyfriend: ““I’ve bred and raised reptiles for 15 years,” said Clem, who works for United Real Estate Premier with Myrick. “There was no question what it was.” That sends off alarm bells at the insurance company. Probably nothing but every fact starts that way.

  3. Seems to be a lot of then around these days. They may be the least venomous, but are generally pretty aggressive. Read about the cost of venomous snake bite treatment costs, that will get your attention. We’ve had five copperhead bites and a rattlesnake bite (that poor guy is still trying to get his $17,000 medevac flight bill reduced). We have (had) the jewel of state parks here in Western Maryland, but some politicians thought it would be in the best interest to open a casino on the state property. We told one group of people out walking the bike trail to be careful as we had just seen a copperhead on steps. But, a short while later, the ranger who was with us heard a report of a snake bite–apparently these N. Jersey folks thought it would be funny to pick it and mess with it. A multitude of fine individuals this structure has brought to our area. I’ve come across many rattlesnakes here and they generally seem disinterested, save for one. Pretty entertaining too, there was one a couple of summers ago that liked to coil up on the edge of the rail trail and watch the bikes go by. Kind of a “Far Side” scene as this chilled snake’s head was going side-to-side watching as people screamed in terror as they rode by. By the number of snakes bites in the low-populated area, I would say the local healthcare has a deal with snakes, who are probably getting a cut of the ER fees. Save your money and steer clear of anything moving along the ground.

  4. J Pismo Clam – I don’t think I would be willing to spend 5 days in the hospital on anti-nausea meds just for love and money. Too chancey.

  5. In this case snakes are not guilty, it is the ignorant and certainly stupid woman that goes to eat to a restaurant that has as attraction a crystal cage with snakes in it. I would have thrown up just by looking at those snakes in the place I plan to enjoy a meal! Intelligence seems to be every day more scarce in America!

  6. I’m a suspicious person by nature and as x law enforcement. I would like to know more about Myricks boyfriend Mr Clem the type of snakes he has/is breeding. How are both doing financially and I would like to know a great deal about their backgrounds. Maybe coincidence, bad luck but how does a breeder of snakes girl friend be the victim of a snake bite outside a major restaurant.

    • JPC,I’m with you. I did a little reading on it and apparently copperheads are the least lethal. Also thought it was interesting it just happened to be a baby copperhead as well. The big problem will come in when they get an insurance bill for the anti-venom.It wouldn’t surprise me if it was a scam.
      We’ll see.

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