Petco not liable in death of boy from rat bite fever

Pankey family attorney vows to appeal
Posted at 9:21 AM, Apr 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-20 20:38:28-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)--Petco was found not liable and not guilty in the death of 10-year-old boy who contracted rat bite fever from a pet rat purchased at the store. 

But the fight may not be over.

John Gomez, an attorney for the victim's family, said they will appeal the decision and take the data they collected to the legislature and Centers for Disease and Control Prevention to fight for changes. 

RELATED:Lawsuit against Petco: Closing argument in boy's rat bite fever trial

The family of Aiden Pankey sued Petco claiming the 10-year-old boy died of rat bite fever in 2013 from a diseased pet rat sold by Petco to the boy's grandmother, Sharon Pankey.

Sharon told 10News reporter Mary McKenzie about Aiden's suffering.

"We had no idea what was going on with his little body until the coroner three months later," she said. "They had to send his samples to the CDC to diagnose what he had died from."

During closing arguments, Gomez argued there are others around the country who had contracted rat bite fever from pet rats purchased at Petco, too.

RELATED: Court ruling could have impact on pet stores across California

The family wants Petco to adopt stricter policies to ensure no other family went through what their family went through.

But Petco's attorney, Kimberly Oberrecht, argued that there are risks in owning any pet and pointed to the liability release Sharon Pankey signed. 

"I release Petco from any and all responsibility related to illness, injury or damage that may occur from exposure to my pet," Oberrecht said it read. 

Sharon still plans to continue advocating for changes. 

"The difference between a healthy rat and a safe rat, that's what we're pushing to get more attention given to," she said. "The message I got today if we get this response from the jury, I'm not so sure getting a response from the legislature was going to be that effective-- that was a big buyer beware response that I got." 

Sandy Coronilla is a KGTV digital producer. Follow her @10NewsSandy