After listening to both side’s closing arguments, a San Diego jury finds Petco not liable to the death of a 10-year-old boy. The decision was made four years after the boy’s death from rat-bite fever.
Lawyers of both sides of the case presented their arguments about the responsibility of the pet retailer regarding Aidan Pankey’s death in June 12, 2013.
The Pankey family’s lawyer, John H. Gomez, argued that Petco, as well as their supplier Barney’s Pets, were well aware that the rats that they sell are affected by the bacteria that causes rat-bite fever and that there were already over 50 cases of rat-bite fever ever since the company started selling rats in 2001.
To counter this, Petco’s lawyer stated that the company is doing everything they can to prevent the disease, and that there is no way of knowing the percentage of rats that carry the disease. What’s more, they argued that among the 5 million rats sold between the years of 2001 and 2013, only 45 claims of rat-bite have been filed, with some of them still unconfirmed.
After deliberation, the jury found Petco and Barney’s Pets not liable to the death of Aidan Pankey, stating that the company did enough to warn consumers of the risks of buying a pet rat.
In a statement, Petco expressed their agreement with the ruling, and declares their commitment to ensure the safety of their customers.
Aidan Pankey’s Death
Aidan Pankey died in 2013, two weeks after purchasing a male rat he named Alex. He was brought to the hospital after developing flu-like symptoms but was sent home after doctors thought it was common flu.
He was rushed to the emergency room when his symptoms worsened, but died early the next day. His death was ruled as a result of rat-bite fever, despite not having been bitten or scratched by his pet rat.
His father, Andrew Pankey, then sued Petco and Barney’s Pets, seeking $20 million for the loss of his son.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines Rat-bite Fever (RBF) as an infectious disease that can be caused by two different bacteria depending on where you live; Streptobacillus moniliformis in North America, and Spirillum minus in Asia.
Apart from rat bites and scratches, RBF can be contracted by humans by handling rodents with the disease, or by consuming contaminated food or beverages. It cannot be passed from one person to another.
Though RBF is rare, symptoms can occur three to 10 days after exposure, and can lead to death if left untreated.
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