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Bee attack: Can you be held responsible?

Posted at 7:33 PM, Aug 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 22:38:44-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - We've had a frightening flights of bee attacks this week.  Two men dead.  One hospitalized.  Even an outdoor concert delayed while bees were cleared out.

But can you be held responsible if bees hurt or kill someone on your property?

This week, a landscaper died when bees attacked him in the Drexel Heights area.  

Officials say they found two hives under the eaves of the house---so large and heavy they had probably been there for months.

Wednesday a 75 year old man died in Rio Rico after bees swarmed him on a golf course there.

But could the families of those bee victims hold property owners responsible?

Attorney Dev Sethi says, “Not necessarily.  Bees are wild animals like snakes, or elk on the highway so just because you get a bee sting or even a swarm of bees on your property doesn't automatically expose you to responsibility."

Sethi says you could face some civil liability if you knew bees were on your property and you did nothing remove the bees or at least warn people about them.

It does pay to be careful to maintain your property so it doesn't have a lot of places bees might actually set up a hive.  That would mean maintaining your property pretty well so buildings and sheds don't have entry points where bees might fly in and set up housekeeping.

A smaller property could leave you with a bigger liability.

Sethi says, “Iif you own a small house with an outbuilding, you're better able to know exactly what's going on on that smaller property. If you own a golf course that's hundreds, maybe thousands of acres you're going to be expected and able to know less about what's going on in every nook and cranny."

But Sethi says says there are no legal absolutes here.  A jury would decide if you'll pay for what the bees did.

Pima County's Parks Department tells workers if they find a hive to block it off, keep people away, and bring in a removal expert.

If bees appear on city property, Tucson calls in bee experts. But if the hive is an immediate threat Tucson Fire hits the hive with foam that kills the bees.

Tucson Fire Captain Andy Skaggs says, “Whether it's on city property or not, that's what it is, a life safety issue. If it becomes a threat to your life you need to call 911.  If they're in a place and you're able to stay indoors, you're able to stay inside your house, you're able to stay inside your car and remove yourself from those bees then there's an opportunity for a pest control company to come out and do it."

Now here's a scary scenario.  The city of Tucson tries to have nice landscaping along the medians.  Tucson Fire had a case where, in the median there was a swarm of bees big enough that they worried they would end up in someone's car and the driver would be fighting off a swarm of bees and trying to maintain control.

Tucson Fire came out and removed that threat.