A Washington man was bitten by a rattlesnake Saturday in the outdoor garden department of a Wal-Mart and doctors say that his had may be permanently disfigured as a result. The man bent down to pick up what he thought was a stick, only to discover that it was a rattlesnake that then bit his hand. He reports that it latched onto his hand and that he screamed and managed to shake the snake loose and stomp it to death. A bystander then drove him to a nearby hospital where he was treated with six bags of anti-venom. He will likely remain hospitalized until tomorrow.
This is the type of situation in which the victim may be entitled to recover against the property owner on a premises liability claim. Commercial property owners that hold their premises open to the public, like Wal-Mart, owe a heightened duty of care to their customers. The presence of a rattlesnake in the outdoor garden department likely does not, in and of itself, show that Wal-Mart breached its duty of care, but an investigation into the circumstances that led to the snake bite may reveal other relevant facts. For example, did Wal-Mart employees know the snake was in the garden department and continue to allow shoppers to have access to the area where it was located? Had there been problems in the past with snakes entering the outdoor garden department area? Answers to questions like these would help to determine whether a commercial property owner is liable for injuries on their premises.