Mahlandt v. Wild Canid Survival & Research Center, Inc.

588 F.2d 626 (8th Cir. 1978)


Mahlandt (P), a three-year-old boy, suffered injuries after being bit by a wolf. Although nobody witnessed the incident, P somehow got into the wolf's cage, possibly by crawling under the fence. Poos was the Director of Wild Canid Survival & Research Center, Inc. (D), where the wolf was caged. The wolf was used by Poos to take around to schools and was raised at the children's zoo. It had always acted harmlessly, even after being touched by thousands of children. During trial, an expert as to the behavior of wolves opined that the lacerations were not wolf bites or wounds caused by wolf claws. Wolves have powerful jaws, and a wolf bite will result in massive crushing or severing of a limb. He stated that if Sophie had bitten Daniel, there would have been clear apposition of teeth and massive crushing of Daniel's hands and arms which were not injured. Also, if Sophie had pulled Daniel under the fence, tooth marks on the foot or leg would have been present, although Sophie possessed enough strength to pull the boy under the fence. P attempted to prove that the wolf had bitten P by entering evidence that Poos had written a note to D's president stating that 'the wolf had bitten a child.' Poos also allegedly verbally informed the president later in the day about the incident. P also wanted to introduce into evidence that a board meeting discussed the legal ramifications of the wolf biting a child. The judge refused to let these statements into evidence. He stated that it was hearsay since the person making the statements had no personal knowledge of the facts. Judgment was for D.