$950,000 – Wrongful Death of Woman Gored to Death on an African Safari

This very unusual case involved a couple who, through an American travel agency, booked a safari to Africa. When they booked the safari, it was represented to them that they would be safe and protected during the entire safari adventure.

Plaintiff did not learn until they were already in Africa that the African country had outlawed Caucasian safari “hunters” from carrying rifles and that the only armed guide was a native who did not speak English.

Late one afternoon, the guides took five women out for a special walk on a peninsula to try to find rhinoceroses. Two of the women were having their periods. The group did in fact find a rhinoceros who charged at them. The guides saw the charging rhino before the guests. Without a rifle, the Caucasian guide, whom the travel agency stated would protect the members of the safari, was helpless to act; the native guide, after giving the women a warning they could not understand, ran up a tree, and his old, outdated rifle did not discharge when he attempted to shoot the rhino. As a result, one of the women was gored through her stomach. She was rushed back to the campsite, miles away from any medical care, where she died in her husband’s arms.

The husband brought a wrongful death suit against the travel agency and touring guide company for misrepresentation and fraud.

At the time, John D. Winer was an associate in another law firm and participated in the litigation of this case which involved complex legal issues of the duty of an American travel agency and tour company for an injury that occurred on another continent. Further, there were significant issues regarding plaintiff’s assumption of risk and issues of whether African law or California law should apply. Ultimately, plaintiff was able to establish facts which indicated that the defendants failed to warn the women of the true risks and that the safari was negligently conducted since it is known in the industry that tourists should not hike out on a peninsula where they can be trapped and menstruating women should not be in the area of rhinos since it increases the risk they will attack.

RESULT: $950,000 settlement on behalf of the plaintiff