Florida is one of the top destination states for beekeepers because of its warm climate and abundance of nectar producing flowers. However, like many other activities, Florida law dictates some of the things you can and can’t do or should and shouldn’t do. The good news is it’s not that complicated. Florida Statutes pre-empt local ordinances regarding beekeeping (more to come on that in part 2) so you only have to worry about one level of government for purposes of the State. I recently obtained a hive so I thought I would share my legal research with everyone (what else do lawyers do when they get new things?) This series will be divided into three parts:
1) Tort liability of beekeeping,
2) regulation, and
3) a possible hidden legal bonus for anyone who keeps bees.
This part will focus on potential tort liability. Bees are often feared because they are known to sting. However, they’re fairly harmless if they’re unprovoked. Animals kept on private fall into two categories. The first category is that of wild animals. Anyone who keeps a wild animal on their private property is strictly liable for the damage that animal does to others. It doesn’t matter whether the owner acted reasonably in housing the animal or not. The very fact it did damage makes the owner liable. The second is domesticated animals. Aside from exceptions described in Florida’s dog bite statute, liability for domestic animals is based on reasonableness. This usually looks at factors of how much of a danger the owner SHOULD (which is different from did) have known the animal could cause and the way the owner acted based on that knowledge. In Ferreira v. D’Asaro, 152 So.2d 736 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1963) , the Court determined that bees are domestic animals. Therefore, a beekeeper should act reasonable in locating their apiary. High density residential areas carry higher risks of being an unreasonable place to put a beehive than low density agricultural land. Reasonableness is a question for a finder of fact (a judge or jury) so determining exactly what that may be is not easy. However, it’s important to place the beehive somewhere that it’s not likely to injure other people or their pets. By doing so, as gentle as bees are, this will minimize the potential for a lawsuit if someone is stung.