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Torts

Exam 19
30 minutes

Fact Pattern

A farmer keeps six horses in a stable. The stable is located at the western edge of the farmer’s pasture, and is immediately adjacent to the farmer’s western property line. The property line is marked with a fence. On the other side of the fence is the neighbor’s estate, which includes elaborate gardens and other landscaping. 

The farmer’s pasture is a square tract of land that measures approximately half a mile on each side. During the day, the farmer lets the horses graze in the pasture. At night, the farmer closes the horses in the stable. The horses are pedigreed animals, and some of them are trained as show horses. The total combined market value of the horses is $100,000.

One night, the farmer is awakened by noises coming from the stable. The farmer looks outside and sees that the stable is on fire. The farmer runs to the stable and lets the horses out. The stable doors face north. Instead of driving the horses east, into the pasture, the farmer drives the horses west, where they jump the fence and run through the neighbor’s estate. The horses trample large portions of the neighbor’s landscaping, causing $5,000 in damage. 

While this is happening, the neighbor grabs his shotgun and fires over the heads of the horses, attempting to scare the horses away. An errant shot kills one of the horses, which was a show horse worth $30,000. Applicable law provides that a landowner is privileged to kill any animal on the landowner’s property, unless the animal is privileged to be there. 

The neighbor sues the farmer for trespass. The farmer asserts the defense of necessity, and counterclaims against the neighbor for the value of the dead horse. 


Questions

  1. Ignoring the farmer’s defense, is the farmer liable for trespass? Explain.
  2. Assuming that the farmer’s actions otherwise constitute trespass, can the farmer successfully assert the defense of necessity? Explain, including an analysis of the respective monetary liabilities of the farmer and the neighbor in light of your answer.

Question 1

Ignoring the farmer’s defense, is the farmer liable for trespass? Explain.

Question 2

Assuming that the farmer’s actions otherwise constitute trespass, can the farmer successfully assert the defense of necessity? Explain, including an analysis of the respective monetary liabilities of the farmer and the neighbor in light of your answer.

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