Construction Law Insights

Myrick v. Rare Hospitality Int'l, Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6227, 2020 WL 201050 (E.D. Va. Jan. 13, 2020)

Rachel Myrick (“Myrick”) was bit by a copperhead snake while dining at a restaurant and filed a complaint for common-law negligence against Southpoint II, LLC (“Southpoint”), W.J. Vakos & Company, and W.J. Vakos Management Company (collectively, the “Developers”). Myrick alleged that Southpoint acquired, designed, and developed a 264-acre property in Spotsylvania County (the “Property”) in 2001 and the Developers built a man-made storm water retention pond that bordered the restaurant. Myrick alleged that copperheads frequently hibernate in dens made of rocks and that the retention pond contained decorative boulders and plantings. Myrick alleged that the Developers knew or should have known that the retention pond and its surrounding

vegetation adjacent to the restaurant created a habitat for venomous snakes and that venomous snakes would migrate from the retention pond to the restaurant. After removing the case to federal court, the Developers moved to dismiss the Complaint for failing to state a claim.

In remanding the case to state court for lack of diversity, the Eastern District held that Myrick may have alleged a plausible negligence claim, but did not rule the Developers’ motion to dismiss. The common law imposes a duty on every person to exercise ordinary care in managing property so as to prevent injuring others. The ferae naturae doctrine provides that landowners are not liable to those injured by wild animals or natural conditions existing on the land. They may, however, be held liable for injuries caused by artificial conditions they create. Myrick alleged her injuries resulted from the artificial conditions the Developers created, and that such injuries were a foreseeable consequence of creating those conditions. Accordingly, the Court found that Myrick may have stated a plausible negligence claim.

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