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Discussion Starter #1
I'm getting a lot more people asking if I can place hives on their property. Mostly because beekeeping has been approved as an Ag Ext for them and some for large gardens, and some just love the bees. Some have cows, horses, goats, ect...I checked into a Liability Insurance policy around here and the best quote I got was $750.00 per year. Granted that's not a ton but I am a small timer and have had my bees in with cows and goats with zero issues. Nor have I had a issue with my bees stinging anyone.

That said. Could I not have a lawyer draw up some paper work to have these people sign that releases me from any liability upon the misfortune that something bad happened without having to worry about having an insurance policy? Not only for live stock, but also for allergic reaction stings and whatnot to people.
 

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even with a fancy paper ya can still be sued. they have to prove it was your bee that stung them. I would not bother with any paper work to put money in a lawyers pocket.
 

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You could get some meaningful protection from having that sort of agreement. I would have it include general provisions that they waive all claims against you/assume risks that relate to the bees for any property damage, bodily injury or death, and injury to or death of animals. I would also have some specific terms that they assume all risks/waive claims that they will have an adverse allergic reaction to bee stings that could lead to bodily injury or death and that you will keep Africanized "killer bees" or aggressive bees that would be dangerous.

The property owners should promise to never sue you for anything related to the bees; agree to pay your attorney fees if they sue you in violation of the agreement; and agree to indemnify and hold you harmless from third-party claims (and pay any attorney fees incurred by you to enforce that part of the agreement).

Add anything else your lawyer can come up with.

That being said, there are some caveats:

1. I'm not your lawyer;

2. I'm not a Texas lawyer, and you would want a Texas lawyer to do this and make sure there are no statutes that are violated by the agreement;

3. The agreement would not be binding on third parties or people who don't sign it (I'd require all adult owner/occupants to sign, for that reason);

4. There could issues of making it enforceable as to children, who lack the capacity to enter contracts (although it could be binding on parents who sign).

Also, I don't actually follow my own advice about this. Right now, I keep hives in somebody else's backyard (and that person is, of all things, a judge). The only agreement I have with her is that if the bees bother her, they will be moved within 72 hours. However, she started out keeping bees and decided she just likes to have bees on her property with me doing the work.

I would also have your counsel look at whether there are any laws specific to limitation of liability for agriculture activities and see what you have there to work with. In Oklahoma, for example, there is a statute to provides a lot of liability protection for equestrian stuff if signs are posted.

Other generally good ideas are to obviously use good judgment about where you place the hives and to make sure you are not violating any ordinances or statutes. Also consider putting a warning sign up on the hive.

However, ultimately, these sorts of contracts are not a substitute for liability insurance. I am suprised that it would cost so much. What you might try to do is use contract/release documents and then see what the lowest liability limit policy the insurance company will sell. That would provide you with a defense (the insurer would pay your lawyer) if you did get sued. The benefit of having a defense is really huge, because litigation can get really expensive really fast. It takes a lot of hours to defend a lawsuit, and you would likely have to educate a lawyer about beekeeping to get him or her ready to defend you properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Neil! I was hoping you would chime in.
 

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I would not bother with any paper work to put money in a lawyers pocket.
Those are famous last words, if I ever heard them. Also, as a lawyer, if people didn't put money in my pocket, how would I afford all my bee junk?

Neil's thoughts seem spot-on to me. But this is 10th thread or so I've seen on this issue that beekeepers are going to be sued. After a quick search, I couldn't find any cases where a beekeeper had been SUCCESSFULLY sued for bee stings. In other words, just because a case got filed, that doesn't mean that the plaintiff got any money.

Also, it seems to me that there are already a bunch of protections built into the law for this sort of thing. To name just one: the open and obvious doctrine, which would basically say that if you went and messed with beehives and got stung, it's your own dumb fault.

So if you are a commercial beekeeper and you are running a big operation, it obviously makes sense to have insurance to cover all the normal day-to-day issues that any business faces. But if you have 5 hives in your backyard or at a few out-yards, this seems like a pretty irrational fear.

I would wager that beekeepers have more likelihood of being struck by lightning than being successfully sued because of a beesting.
 

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The Collin County Hobby Beekeeper Association had a member who is a lawyer give a presentation on the legal issues of keeping bees in the Dallas Metroplex.

He also went over the only case he was able to find of a lawsuit regarding bees. The plantiff won the initial case but ultimately lost at the Texas Supreme Court. As I recall the case was brought by the family of a man hired by a commercial beekeeper who had purchased a hobby beekeeper out and was picking up the hives. The helper was stung while out in some bushes relieving himself between stops. He had a reaction and because of the distance died before medical care could be obtained. both commercial and hobbyist were sued. I believe the commercial beekeeper had insurance but the hobbyist did not and he is the one that fought it to the Supreme Court of Texas and prevailed.

Basically the lawyer felt the burden of proof was to great to prove it was your bee that sung someone. He gave the basic recommendation that if dealing with someone makes you feel you should have a contact just in case, it's probably best to not work with them and deal with someone who doesn't give you that feeling.
 

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I agree that a release of liability is a good Idea, and it should cover every possible circumstance. but remember the wording has to be in a manner that is easily understood. when you start talking about wrongful filing and indemnification. Simple folk start thinking they will have to pay your expenses if someone else tries to sue you. and change their mind about having bees on their land.
 

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Honestly, if you have to get a lawyer and have people sign waivers... might you think twice? City honey tastes like candy but is it really worth the worries and the potential problems? lol Have fun
 

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People love to complain about lawyers, but in the next breath they want to get all papered up to protect against a liability which doesn't exist.
 

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Stick a waiver in front of someone and how many people will sign and how many people will say on second thought no thanks find some other place.

I have 20 different apiaries and no paper work. I do have liability insurance for my business. It covers injury claims. But that won't help someone not in business.
 

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I'm getting a lot of the same interest from people and mostly over the ag exemption. Many are unclear on the rules of an ag exemption. I've talked with TAIS and a couple of appraisal districts. The landowner needs to register as an apiary and note that they are someone elses bees, same point was made by the appraisal districts. Appraisal district wants a copy of the lease.

You can get sued for anything, though many have noted that in Texas, the, "it wasn't my bee" defense appears to be supported.

My bigger concern is that the landowners are often looking to beekeepers for information on the ag exemption in these situations and it could easily become "tax and legal advice"... In addition to the requests for "more information on the ag exemption..." at some point you will likely want your bees off the land - if bees aren't there 7 months of the year, the land owner risks losing the exemption, if someone loses an ag exemption, they can face a 5 year roll back on their taxes.

That said, I have a handshake (quart of honey per hive) agreement on a big ranch (grass fed cattle on native pasture). Oldtimer landowner used to have bees and has an ag exemption for the cattle.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Stick a waiver in front of someone and how many people will sign and how many people will say on second thought no thanks find some other place..
That would be fine with me. I'm not looking for places to put hives. These are people calling me wanting to know if I can put hives on their property for their own benefit, not mine.
 

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I would keep in mind that waivers are not one way streets. If you presented my client with a waiver, I would draft one for you to sign as well. Just something to consider.
 

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. . . the open and obvious doctrine, which would basically say that if you went and messed with beehives and got stung, it's your own dumb fault.
I'm not a lawyer, and I do agree with you. But the thought crossed my mind wondering if bee hives could be considered an attractive nuisance. For those not familiar with the term, things like radio towers and backyard swimming pools are attractive nuisances, if I remember correctly. For example, the swimming pool is so enticing to neighborhood children, the owner is responsible to have a fence and locked gate to keep them out. The burden is on the owner, not the one trespassing. Again, not a lawyer, just wondering.
 

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Yeah, the attractive nuisance is a vague area if law that would require a state by state inquiry. A quick google search can't find an instance of a beehive found to be an attractive nuisance.

But, again, this all seems like an esoteric question: what are people really worried about here? The stat I see thrown around all the time is that people have a greater chance of being killed by lightning than by bees. I would say that the chance that a beekeeper will be SUCCESSFULLY sued is substantially less. Again: if you are commercial or have a bee business that is more than a sideline, get an insurance policy. Everyone else: relax.
 
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