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8th Circuit

Jeff Anderson first noticed something was wrong in 1998. He had been a professional beekeeper in Minnesota for many years, and had never seen anything like this. His queen bees were being replaced during the wrong time of year and, in certain locations, large numbers of bees were suddenly dropping dead.

His mysterious problems continued the following year. Steve Ellis, a fellow beekeeper who knew of Anderson's plight, called with some disturbing news: A crop duster recently had strayed from a neighbor's land, where it had been spraying insecticide on a grove of hybrid poplar trees, and now Ellis' bees were dying. He asked if any of Anderson's hives were near hybrid poplars. They were, and it didn't take long for the men to start figuring out what had happened.

However, the Wisconsin ruling also made it clear that landowners can be liable if they harm a trespassing animal through "willful or wanton negligence." Minnesota courts go further, holding that once a landowner discovers the presence of trespassing animals, the landowner must use "reasonable care" to avoid injuring them.

Neither DNR nor International Paper used such care, according to the plaintiffs' complaint. Both organizations had been informed in a variety of ways that there were beehives near their poplar groves, but nevertheless decided to apply Sevin without taking any precautions to protect the bees that were likely to come onto their property. Thus, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled, the beekeepers were entitled to a trial on their negligence claims.


Steven Seidenberg

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