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My wife is concerned that if a bee from one of my (illegally sited) hives stings someone, I might get sued.

Leaving aside the part about the hives being illegally sited, I think it would be difficult for anyone to sue over a bee sting. Surely it comes down to the fact that it would be really difficult to prove that the sting came from one of my bees.

I'm sure most beekeepers are familiar with the concept that if anyone notices one of their hives, and someone is stung, the offending bee must have come from that hive.

Ridiculous lawsuits are always newsworthy and I'm sure expensive. Has anyone heard of someone getting successfully sued over a sting?

What about house-owners who have bees in their roof or under a shed, are they the responsibility of the householder as well?
 

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Liability

Often revolves around the issue of negligence. If one is doing something in a reasonable manner, with due consideration for others, liability is greatly reduced. If one is doing something unusual or without regard for others welfare, liability ( responsibility ) is increased. For instance if you are moving bees in the middle of the day and stop for fuel, there is a greater liability for a sting than if you were moving them at night.
 

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It also depends on if there are signs posted, as warnings. As well as fencing around the bee hives; privacy fencing works great! The direction that the hives are facing....distance from other residences, etc. These are a few of the questions that have been brought up on this matter lately.

I just spoke with a new agent about my property insurance and he is supposed to let me know what their company liability is for 'keepers...as it seems that no one else that is insured with him said anything about having bee hives on their property!

The fact that they are illegal hives in the first place would be for sure a strike against you. On the other hand, if they do not know the hives are there and they are out of the way, it would be hard for them to sue you unless the hives were made known.

Brenda
 

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Act of nature. Prove it was my bees and not a yellow jacket or something.:thumbsup:
 

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Buy gentle stock. Not only does it reduce the chance of a problem in the first place but if there ever is a problem it looks good if you can point out that you've made a real effort to avoid problems by seeking out gentle stock.
 

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My wife is concerned that if a bee from one of my (illegally sited) hives stings someone, I might get sued.

Leaving aside the part about the hives being illegally sited, I think it would be difficult for anyone to sue over a bee sting. Surely it comes down to the fact that it would be really difficult to prove that the sting came from one of my bees.

I'm sure most beekeepers are familiar with the concept that if anyone notices one of their hives, and someone is stung, the offending bee must have come from that hive.

Ridiculous lawsuits are always newsworthy and I'm sure expensive. Has anyone heard of someone getting successfully sued over a sting?

What about house-owners who have bees in their roof or under a shed, are they the responsibility of the householder as well?
I wouldn't worry about it, maybe if you tossed a hive full of hornets in an elevator you could be in trouble, but if someone did get stung and sued you, how could they prove it was a bee from your hive?
 

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Real world is that absolute proof that the bee in question came from your hive would not be necessary for you to lose a lawsuit. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the standard for a verdict in a criminal case. A beesting lawsuit would be heard in civil court where the "preponderance of evidence" becomes the standard. Big difference.
 

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More likely someone would sue you AND your insurance company. The insurance company would then settle out of court to contain costs. Said insurance company would then jack your rates for being a pain in their ... :(

On a similar note, one of my parents neighbors is a farmer. Someone trespassed on his property to go fishing. He did not give them permission to go on his property and did not know they were there. Crossing one of his fields they stepped in a hole and broke their ankle. They sued and the insurance company settled out of court and then raised his rates. :scratch:
 

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To answer your first question, I have not heard of anyone being sued successfully for a bee sting.

Of course anyone can sue for anything but there are a multitude of factors that would have to be shown to be successful. For instance: was it a honeybee? Did they keep the bee? Even if it was a honey bee since there are feral bees most everywhere how can they prove it was one of your bees. I think that you would be able to show in court that the bee could have come from anywhere. There are a host of other factors that could be brought up in your defense, so I wouldn't worry about it. You are more likely to be sued by someone having an reaction or getting sick from eating your honey...that's where I would have my insurance coverage.
 

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This Is An Excerpt Of An Article I Wrote For My Bee Club's Newsletter

Disclaimer: I am not your lawyer. We do not have an attorney-client relationship. What follows are my personal opinions. Talk to a lawyer you hire to discuss your personal, specific situation. That being said, here is some info.:

I have been a lawyer since 1994, and my practice primarily involves the defense of civil litigation. I have seen thousands of lawsuits and cases and many claims that were not in litigation. In my legal practice, I have never even heard of an actual claim or lawsuit relating to any type of bee stinging incident. To put that in perspective, I have seen a claim where a child drowned in a koi pond. So what's more dangerous, keeping bees or keeping fish?

I have tried to locate published judicial opinions about bee sting claims. Most of the published cases about honeybees involve situations where the bees got poisoned and the beekeeper brought the lawsuit. However, I managed to locate two cases in which the plaintiff claimed damages from a stinging incident. One was from around 1910, and it involved some bees that allegedly killed two mules. The other was from the last 10 years in Texas. Bees killed a man who had been hired to help a commercial beekeeper move some hives that he was purchasing from a landowner. The worker got stung and died from an allergic reaction. His survivors sued both the commercial beekeeper and the property owner and won, claiming that the employer never disclosed the risk of an allergic reaction. On appeal, the court threw out the judgment against the landowner who was selling the bees, but the judgment against the commercial beekeeper stuck.

By contrast, there are many more published decisions involving swimming pools, dog bites and many other types of injuries. Based on the published case law, beekeeping is not a very high liability activity.

However, just because beekeeping is generally a safe, reasonable activity is no excuse for throwing all caution to the wind. Generally speaking, liability related to beekeeping would be from some act of negligence. Beekeepers would only be liable when they fail to exercise reasonable care in a manner that damages another person or property. That is the definition of negligence.

The one, easy way that you could become liable is by keeping bees in a place or manner that is illegal. If beekeeping is banned where you live, then you could be liable if your bees sting someone. If you are supposed to keep hives 20 feet from the property line but keep them right on the property line and the neighbor mows his lawn and gets stung, then you have a problem.

In that situation, the doctrine of "negligence per se" could apply. Under that doctrine, a person is deemed to act unreasonably if he violates a statute or ordinance. It's analogous to running a red light while driving a car.

Some people think that ordinances can be ignored unless somebody complains. After all, if nobody complains, you won't get a ticket. Even if somebody complains, the city probably will just give you a warning. However, the potential problem is that violating an ordinance will put you at risk for liability if your bees sting a neighbor.

All of you lucky folks who live outside any city limits should just use common sense about situating your hives.

From this point on, I will assume that the place and manner of your beekeeping is legal and not overtly dumb. Then the liabiilty question can be divided into two situations: (1) bees sting somebody on your premises; or (2) bees sting somebody off of your premises.

There are two reasons for that distinction. First, as a factual matter, we all know that the real risk of being stung is at the hive. Sure, people can step on a bee somewhere and get stung. However, bees are programmed to sting to defend the hive, if it is disturbed.
Second, negligence law has specific rules relating to premises liability. As a general rule, if somebody is not a trespasser and is on your property for non-business purposes, your duty is to avoid harming him or her by either (1) a wilful or wanton act; or (2) exposing the person to harm by failiing to give a warning of a known danger. If the person is on your premises for business reasons, then you must remove or warn about dangers on the property that you know about or should know about.

The key idea is that your duty, as the person who occupies the land where the hive is located, is to warn about the danger. To satisfy that duty, you can put up signs by your hives that say "Warning! -- Beehive." You can order such a sign from practically any beekeeping supply company. The sign itself satisfies the duty to use due care.
I recognize that a warning sign can, in practice, be a bigger problem than the hive. After all, putting up a warning sign signals to neighbors that you think there is a danger, which can lead to worries and problems with neighbors. However, I think that you would be better off to put up appropriate signs.

Generally, you would not owe duties to trespassers from merely having a hive, but a sign would not hurt if you get sued by a trespasser either. However, an exception applies to kids, when there is a condition on your property (called an "attractive nuisance") that you reasonably would expect to attract kids. I question whether a beehive would really qualify as an attractive nuisance. However, if there are kids around, hide or fence off your hives.

As a practical matter, the most likely situation where somebody would get stung on your property or near your hive is if a mentor is working with a newbee who does not know that he/she is severely allergic. Make sure that you explain to newbees that there is a risk of being stung and having a severe allergic reaction. Although it might "feel" weird to do it, having people sign waivers would not be a bad idea if you are a regular mentor or teach hands-on classes.

All of these suggestions also apply when you keep your bees on somebody else's property. Just pretend that they are on your property. That will protect you and the property owner.

The other general scenario is that a bee could sting somebody off of your premises. As a practical matter, the claimant first would have to prove that the bee was your bee. However, that's not always going to be impossible. For example, the next-door-neighbor who is stung while you are working your hive (that you illegally placed on the property line) might have a good case. I suppose that it is theoretically possible that a DNA analysis might identify your bees as the culprits. However, that may be more science fiction than reality, and they would have to know that you even keep bees to locate you and your hives.

Assuming that it can be proved that your bee was involved, in my personal opinion, I think that you would still have a reasonable basis for defending yourself. I want to stress that "I think" does not mean "I know." This is a somewhat open question, because these claims are rare to the point of being non-existent in the published case law. As a result, these legal issues have not been addressed by any court at any time. However, my best guess is that a plaintiff would have to prove that you did something unreasonable. If you are keeping bees legally, the mere fact that some freak sting incident happened away from your property should not make you liable.

Once again, a lack of common sense could get you in trouble. I do not, for example, recommend that you intentionally keep Africanized bees, which may also be illegal. (It is illegal in Oklahoma.) You also should not open your hives when you know that people are nearby, even if they are off of your property.

To summarize, beekeeping appears to be a safe activity with a relatively low potential for being sued or having liability for personal injury. However, to lessen your potential for liability, I recommend that you place your hive in a legal location and follow all applicable ordinances, put up warning signs and use common sense.
 
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