Logger Loses Award for Timber Site Snake Bites

     (CN) – A logging company is not liable to a worker who suffered debilitating bites from a diamondback while trying to catch the rattlesnake near his job site, an Alabama appeals court ruled.
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     Mercy Logging, formerly known as Perritt Logging, sent a four-man crew to a job outside Brewton, Ala., on Sept. 24, 2009. As the crew drove back to the service station that evening, crew foreman Aaron Perritt spotted a 6-foot-long diamondback rattlesnake and prepared to run it over.
     Perritt later testified: “It’s just [a logger’s] nature to kill [snakes] because we feel they’re a threat … in the woods.” He also said the snake in question was pointed toward the job site where the Mercy crew would be working the next day.
     When a crew member suggested they instead catch the snake, however, Perritt pulled the labor truck over.
     Johnnie Odom, who said he had caught as many as 100 snakes in his lifetime without ever once getting bitten, said a co-worker was preparing to catch the snake, but looked inexperienced and on the verge of getting bitten.
     Odom then grabbed the snake behind the head and dropped it in a bucket, but the snake reared up and bit both of Odom’s hands several times. After being airlifted to a hospital in Mobile, Odom was in a coma for weeks and emerged totally disabled.
     He filed suit when Mercy refused to cover his medical expenses, which totaled $300,0000, and a judge in Escambia ordered Mercy to pay Odom more than $310,000, plus attorneys’ fees.
     An appellate panel reversed, however, after finding that the snake bites did not arise out of Odom’s employment with Mercy.
     “The snake on the roadway posed no risk – occupational or otherwise – to Odom so long as he remained in the vehicle in which he was riding; once he voluntarily exited the vehicle and attempted to catch the snake, the risk that caused Odom’s injury was personal to him and not ‘sufficiently related to [his] employment to be considered an occupational hazard,'” Judge Craig Pittman wrote for a five-member panel. “The hazard that Odom encountered on September 24, 2009, was not peculiar to loggers; it was one that would be shared by any passing motorist who, after having spied a snake on the roadway, alights from his or her vehicle and undertakes to catch the snake.”
     The 25-page decision notes that Odom “acknowledged at trial that catching a rattlesnake on a public roadway was not an activity caused by his employment.”
     Odom testified: “I wish we would have just kept going. … We could have, but we stopped.”

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