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Land Owner Has No Duty To Protect A Neighbor

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2010 | Litigation, Personal Injury

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has clearly articulated the rule that a land owner generally has no obligation to protect a neighbor from wild animals that are present on the land owner’s property in the case of Belhumeur v. Zilm (May, 2008).

The parties in this case lived next door to each other.  A colony of wild bees built a nest in a tree on the defendant’s property. The bees flew over to the plaintiff’s property and stung him. The plaintiff sued the defendant, arguing that the bees were a nuisance and the defendant had an affirmative duty to remove the bees.

The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, finding that defendant was not liable for injuries caused by wild animals on his property. The Supreme Court agreed and held that since the time of the Roman Empire wild animals were presumed to be owned by no one. Therefore, there is no duty to protect a neighbor from the independent actions of wild animals that are neither possessed nor harbored by the landowner.

In the Belhumeur case specifically, the Supreme Court held that the defendant had no duty to warn the plaintiff of the presence of the bees and no duty to remove the bees from his property. This analysis did not change even when the plaintiff claimed that the defendant had agreed to remove the bees in the past. The Supreme Court held that a mere promise to remove the bees did not impose an obligation upon the defendant to follow through and carry out the action.

Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A.  Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].