Lawsuit against Petco: Closing arguments in trial over boy's rat bite fever death

Posted at 6:10 AM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 09:11:18-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Closing arguments are set to begin Tuesday in the trial of a lawsuit filed over the death of a 10-year-old boy, who contracted a disease from a pet rat purchased from a Petco store.

In 2013, Aiden Pankey died from rat bite fever from a pet rat that was bought by his grandmother.

The Pankey family filed a lawsuit against Petco, claiming the store sold them a diseased pet rat. The family wants stricter policies in place, so no other family goes through what they did.

The family's attorney, Bibianne Fell, said in her opening statement, "What this case is about is Petco selling rats that had a deadly bacteria to people, including children, and as a result, 10-year-old Aidan Pankey died."

Fell also cited others around the country who she said contracted rat bite fever from rats bought from Petco. Fell told the court that it's an illness the company was aware of.

RELATED: Trial over boy's rat bite fever death begins

Petco's attorney Kimberly Oberrecht told jurors that there are risks with owning any pet, adding rats can carry bacteria that could make people sick. She said rat bite fever is a very rare disease, but it is preventable if safe-handling instructions are followed.

Oberrecht read from a document Aidan's grandmother signed when she purchased the pet. She said it states: "I release Petco from any and all responsibility related to illness injury or damage that may occur from exposure to my pet."

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"Ms. Pankey signed this document acknowledging that she read it, that she read the caution statements," she added.