Jury sides with Petco in death of boy from rat-bite fever

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A San Diego jury has found that Petco was not negligent when it sold a pet rat to a 10-year-old boy who later became sick and died after handling the animal. "It took us three months to find out what [Aiden] died of".

Aidan Pankey's grandmother, Sharon Pankey, told reporters that Petco should do more to warn consumers of the dangers of owning a rat that might carry "rat-bite fever".

A lawyer for Petco argued that those numbers were inflated and that the plaintiff's lawyers were ignoring the fact that the bacteria that causes rat bite fever can not be bred out of the animals. "Be aware when you go to your doctor".

CBS affiliate KFMB-TV reports that on Thursday the jury found Petco was not negligent or liable in the death of Aidan Pankey on June 12, 2013, after he was rushed to a hospital with severe stomach pains. He died hours later.

She said the plaintiff had not proven there is a substantial risk of getting RBF by purchasing a pet rat and scoffed at the $20 million in damages suggested by Gomez, saying the plaintiff should not get even $1 million.

A short time prior to Aiden's death, the boy's family had purchased a pet rat from a Petco store in Carmel Ranch.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pet rats are fine to be in a home as long as they are handled safely.

Pankey's attorney, John H. Gomez, said in closing arguments Tuesday that Petco knows the rats it sells are likely to carry "rat-bite fever" and buries this information on a companion animal card, KFMB reported.

Andrew Pankey's lawyers contended in trial that there had been at least 64 confirmed cases of rat bite fever contracted by customers since Petco began selling rats in 2001, but that the actual number, which would include Petco employees who became ill, was 200 or higher.

Petco's lawyer countered that the company does everything it can to prevent "rat-bite fever" and warns consumers of the rare condition when they buy a pet rat.

"It's not illegal to sell rats", said Kimberly Oberrecht, an attorney representing Petco, adding that although the bacteria is common in rats, it's "exceedingly" rare for humans develop an infection after coming in contact with the animals.

Deliberations continued through Wednesday, with a verdict reached that afternoon and read in court the following day.

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