Woman is run over by runaway cow, says cow's owner is strictly liable. Defense Verdict. Sacramento County.


Strict liability for trespassing animals is argued.

The Case

  • Case Name: Paynter v. Romano
  • Court and Case Number: 34-2016-00189592
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, January 24, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, January 26, 2016
  • Type of Case: Animal Encounter
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Kevin Culhane
  • Plaintiffs:
    Susan Paynter
  • Defendants:
    Tom Jones
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $0
  • Net Verdict or Award: $0
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day.
  • Jury Polls: 9-3 negligence, 1-11 substantial factor, 2-10 strict liability.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Parties stipulated to a high/low verdict. Settlement amount is confidential.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Guenard & Bozarth, LLP by Glenn Guenard, Elk Grove.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:
  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Tiza Serrano Thompson and Associates by Jeffrey M. Schaff, Sacramento.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Steven Barad, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Sacramento.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):


  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):


  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):


Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant was in the process of inoculating 12 newly purchased cows when the squeeze chute broke and one of the cows escaped his possession. The cow ran over defendant’s wife and escaped the property through a gate left open by defendant. Defendant and a ranch hand chased the cow for approximately one mile before the cow entered the plaintiff’s property through an open gate; a gate which is typically closed 363 days out of the year.

    Defendant and the ranch hand spoke with plaintiff’s husband who agreed to help try to wrangle the cow. Plaintiff, who was sitting in her living room, came out to the field in her flip-flops and dress. Plaintiff believed the ranch hand was throwing rocks at the cow and started to yell at him. Defendant and the ranch hand yelled at plaintiff to stay back as she ducked under a 5-foot steel pipe fence and began marching across the field. The cow charged plaintiff at full speed from approximately 300 feet away and knocked her to the ground. Plaintiff made claims for negligence and strict liability for trespassing animals (a common law theory holding an owner or possessor of livestock strictly liable for property damage or personal injury “of a kind that reasonably could have been anticipated from the fact of the trespass under all the circumstances, including the type of animal involved.”).

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff claimed that defendant's failure to shut a gate near the squeeze chute was negligent and would have prevented the incident from happening.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant argued that he was not negligent and that the series of events was unpredictable and out of his control.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff, a 70-year-old woman, suffered a trimalleolar fracture just above the ankle from being struck by the runaway cow.  Plaintiff underwent emergency surgery to have the fracture set and screwed in place. She was in the hospital for four days before being discharged. She was non-weight bearing for 10 weeks. Plaintiff had a subsequent surgery approximately one year later in order to remove the hardware which was causing discomfort.

  • Plaintiff argued at trial: $130,000 in past non-economic and $180,000 in future non-economic.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $24,580.03 – Stipulated as reasonable and related.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $0

Additional Notes

Before trial, the parties reached a high/low agreement.  Insurer was State Farm.