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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mad Cow: S.F. Judge Rules City Not Liable For Belligerent Bovine

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge cow1.jpg
A woman trampled by an angry cow during a nature walk is entitled to sympathy -- but not compensation -- ruled a San Francisco District Court judge.

In October of 2007, hiker Jo Dee Schmidt was mauled by a cow or bull -- she really doesn't know which -- owned by rancher John Hoover while she was hiking in the Acalanes Ridge Recreation Area. The bovine assault put Schmidt in the hospital for 11 days and left her with a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The hiker filed suit against the City of Walnut Creek and Hoover on Dec. 31, 2008 claiming the rancher knew he had dangerous animals grazing on the public right-of-way, and the city ought to have as well. Last month, however, Federal Judge Phyllis Hamilton took the bull by the horns and dismissed Schmidt's case.

Astoundingly, the City of Walnut Creek actually invoked a Constitutional argument -- successfully -- regarding a case in which an unfortunate hiker was run down by a cow.

"The City argues [the case] should be dismissed becuase the complaint fails to allege a violation of a right secured by the United States Constitution," reads the judge's ruling. "In particular, the City contends that not every state law violation gives rise to a substantive due process violation. ... The City asserts that there is no constitutional right to be free from a cow attack..." (My emphasis).

Didn't Patrick Henry once opine about that, though? "Give me freedom from cow attacks or give me death"? I guess he died.

A truly impressive array of cases are cited in the ruling, but it all boils down to this: The City of Walnut Creek and the rancher contend that the danger of bulls in an open pasture is well-known and, short of city officials grabbing Schmidt by the arm and urging her to go hiking while wearing a red cape, the argument that the city knowingly placed the plaintiff in harm's way doesn't hold up.

You can read the whole case here.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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