Wrongful-Death Lawsuit Filed After Man Killed by Rooster

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On Point News reports that the family of a California man killed at a cockfight in January has sued the owner of the property where the fight took place. This would probably not be news except that, as you may recall, he was killed by one of the birds. See "Man Loses Cockfight," Lowering the Bar (Feb. 8, 2011).

Cockfighting, a marvelous pastime in which people watch animals hack each other to death with razor-sharp spurs, is illegal in California (as in most if not all states). Those spurs were involved in the freak accident in January, when police were breaking up a cockfight in Tulare County and one of the roosters apparently took the opportunity for a little payback.

The complaint asserts a premises liability theory against the property owner, alleging that he "permitted, allowed and encouraged" cockfighting on his property and so had a duty to make the premises safe for all invitees (all the human ones, anyway). The problem with that theory, though, is going to be that all the invitees, including the decedent, were there for an illegal purpose. The complaint alleges that the decedent "was not a participant" in the cockfighting, by which they appear to mean that he didn't have any of his own birds there – he did of course end up participating in a cockfight, unfortunately for him. But even if he wasn't throwing birds into the ring, he was presumably betting, and in fact it is illegal just to be a spectator at a cockfight.

That might be a valid defense here, but given that the defendant was running the whole show, it won't bother me too much if that defense doesn't work.