Liability Of An Exterminator For Injuries Caused By Its Operations

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Can An Exterminator Be Held Liable For Injuries As A Result Of Their Operations?

The liability of exterminators, fumigators, and the like, for personal injury or death resulting from their operations is generally based on theories of negligence and strict liability.


Exterminators are under a duty of reasonable care to prevent injury from their operations.  Any breach of this duty which causes injuries may result in the exterminator being held liable for the injuries.  

For example, an exterminator was held liable for the death of a child who consumed some poison used to exterminate cockroaches and silverfish.  The exterminator spread a phosphorous paste poison throughout the house, and a week later a child in the house became sick and died from phosphorous poisoning.  The court held that the exterminator breached their duty to apply the poison so that it would not be accessible to children, thus causing the death of the child.

Strict Liability

Some courts hold that the use of poisonous gasses is an ultrahazardous activity, making the exterminator liable for any harm it causes even though it was not at fault.  

For example, a fumigator was held strictly liable when it released hydrocyanic acid gas in the basement of a building but it escaped to a street-level floor of the building, causing injury to an employee on that floor.  The court held that certain activities under certain conditions may be so hazardous to the public generally, and of such relatively infrequent occurrence, that it calls for strict liability.   The evidence in this case showed that the use of the gas was under the circumstances of a hazardous activity and likely to cause injury even though the utmost care was used, and that the defendant knew or should have known that injury might result.

Can An Exterminator Be Held Liable To Third Parties For Injuries From Their Operations?

An exterminator can be liable to the third-party beneficiary of an exterminating contract resulting from the negligent performance of exterminating operations.  

For example, a hospital patient who was bitten by a brown recluse spider, causing her to lose her feet, was a third-party beneficiary to the extermination contract and was able to recover from the exterminator for breach of contract.  The court stated that the exterminating company violated its contract with the hospital and with the patient as a third-party beneficiary of the contract in that it failed to properly inspect for and exterminate spiders and other pests.

Additionally, a fumigator may be liable to indemnify one who was required to pay a judgment for the death of a party resulting from fumigating operations.  For example, a ship company was able to recover money it was required to pay for the death of a seaman caused by failure to remove deadly poison placed in the seaman's quarters when the vessel was fumigated.  

Should I Consult An Attorney About Liability Of An Exterminator For Injuries From Its Operations?

If you have been injured by the operations of an exterminator, you should speak to an attorney.  A personal injury attorney can help explain the law and your rights so that you can recover damages for your injuries.

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Last Modified: 10-13-2011 12:26 PM PDT

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