You are a newly graduated lawyer and have just gained a position at the law firm of Ejusdem & Generis. You were hired due to your outstanding article on corporate liability of wild animals based on the case of Shorten v Grafton District Golf course NSWCA 58. Your employer has just asked you to prepare a legal opinion for one of the firm's clients, Susan.
A legal opinion is an essay based on the IRAC structure. It does not prosecute a position for one person. It is an evaluation of the merits of a case, based on balancing the law as it is applicable to both parties.
The facts of the problem are as follows:
Susan has a five-acre native bush block of land just outside Geelong in Victoria, Australia. She bought this as she likes being away from the crowded town and she wanted somewhere to keep her pet Bengal Tiger who she calls Benji. Susan uses Benji in her magic show and is a favourite at the local age care homes where Susan and Benji perform for free. Susan has all the correct permits to keep Benji. Benji was raised by Susan from a cub. Benji thinks that she is in fact a small domestic cat. Benji is very docile and would not hurt anyone or anything but has an unquenchable thirst for milk and has a desire to chase balls of string. Susan built a very strong compound to keep Benji in. She realises that although Benji is very safe, some people may not agree with her. One day Kim, a small child who lives next door, came to visit Benji. Kim plays with Benji all the time when Susan is there. On this day however, Susan was not at home. Kim knew where Susan kept the key for Benji's compound. Kim unlocked and opened the door to Benji's compound. Benji was just too strong for Kim and pushed past her looking for milk. Benji spotted Kim's father, Cliff, marking out a new vegetable garden with a ball of string and went to chase the string. Cliff was just climbing onto his mini-tractor with the ball of string and did not see Benji coming. Benji jumped onto the tractor to take the string from Cliff's hand. Startled Cliff fell backward falling off the mini-tractor, knocking the gearshift into drive as he did so.
The uncontrolled tractor ran through his house shocking his wife Mary, who dropped a pan of cooking oil on to the cook top. This instantly caught fire and did considerable damage to the house. The tractor continued on its way through Cliff and Mary's property, running through a chicken coop releasing all the chickens, until it fell into their swimming pool causing a great deal of damage to both the tractor and the pool. The chickens escaped and could not be located, as a result Cliff and Mary could no longer have fresh eggs.
Cliff and Mary now want to sue Susan for the damage to their house, mini-tractor, chicken coop, and pool, and for the loss of the chickens and eggs. Both Cliff and Mary also want to sue for mental shock of being attacked by Benji and the shock of the house fire.
Using common law principles only and not using legislation, advise your employer of the merits of Cliff and Mary's claim, any remedies that they may hope to achieve, and any defences that Susan may have.