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Children love pets. Pets are part of our American culture, and most families think of their pets as family members. While dogs and cats are the most common pets in the United States, there are many other animals that are extremely popular choices. Rats are one of those popular choices. Unfortunately, having a pet rat comes with risks. The most significant risk is rat bite fever.
Tragically, a boy in San Diego County was killed in 2013 after being bitten by his pet rat and contracting rat bite fever. The products liability lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys, led by Bibianne Fell, represent the family of the boy. The attorneys have earned a significant victory for that grieving family, as well as California consumers.
10-year-old Aidan Pankey wanted a pet. His grandmother decided to get him a pet rat from Petco. Aidan spent time with the rat, which he named Alex, and the boy became ill. His grandmother took him to see his pediatrician, but he was diagnosed with the flu and sent home. A couple nights later, Aidan’s illness intensified and woke up with a fever and stomach problems. He was also lethargic and could barely walk. He was taken to a hospital immediately, but tragically it was too late. He died early the next morning, just 17 days after the pet rat came home.
The family decided to take action with the help of the defective products lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys. They wanted to pursue legal remedies by way of a California wrongful death lawsuit. While it may seem that this is a straightforward legal situation, it is not. Petco opposed the lawsuit stating that in California, product liability protections do not extend to the sale of animals as pets.
The judge in the case disagreed and ruled that a diseased animal sold as a pet is a product for purposes of strict products liability. Therefore, the strict products liability standards applied to the situation. As a result, the case could move forward against Petco on the theory that it has a duty to sell safe products to the public. This is the first ruling in California of its kind and could lead to additional accountability on the part of dealers in the future when people are harmed by diseased animals that they sell to consumers.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, rat bite fever is an infectious disease that can be caused by either of two bacteria. One of those bacteria is most common in Asia. Streptobacillus moniliformis is present in North America. If an infected rat bites or scratches a person, that person can be exposed to this bacterium. In some cases, the disease can transmit even if the rat does not bite or scratch a person through the rat’s feces or saliva. The CDC lists people who live with rats among those who are at-risk for contracting rat bite fever.
What makes the situation extremely difficult both in this particular sense and overall is that the symptoms of rat bite fever can easily be confused initially with other, less dangerous conditions. Examples of these symptoms include:
These symptoms usually occur within 3 – 10 days of exposure to an infected rodent. Many of these symptoms can also be associated with more common problems such as a cold, the flu or some other infection. Unfortunately, untreated rat bite fever can lead to the following results:
Ultimately, untreated rat bite fever can be fatal, as was tragically the case with Aidan Pankey.
Unfortunately, there are no governing statistics regarding the number of people who are diagnosed with rat bite fever. That’s because this condition is not one that is typically reported to state health agencies when it is discovered in a medical facility. However, most health organizations have categorized rat bite fever as a “rare” condition. In addition, given the rarity of the condition and the lack of specificity with the symptoms, a misdiagnosis or not even looking for a diagnosis until the condition has reached its late stages is very common. What is known is that children account for more than 50 percent of the diagnoses in the United States.
If your family has pet rodents, you need to be very careful of the dangers that could be present. You cannot see rat bite fever in these animals if they are carrying it. Instead, you need to watch for any signs of symptoms of the condition. Rat bite fever can be spread not only through bites and scratches, but also by way of urine, feces or saliva. If you notice anyone falling ill and you have rodents in your home that have been in contact with humans, you need to obtain a full medical evaluation as quickly as possible. You should be aware that many pediatricians and emergency room physicians are unfamiliar with the disease. Rat bite fever, if caught early, can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
Unfortunately, it’s possible that as rats become more popular as pets, more people will be exposed to these bacteria and more people will suffer from rat bite fever. If this has happened to you or to someone you love, you need to seek the help of San Diego defective products lawyers who have been fighting for the rights of consumers for more than a decade.
Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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