Epic legal battle against Petco after 10-year-old boy dies of rat-bite fever

Attorneys delivered their opening statements last week in the case of a young boy who died after being bitten by a rat his grandmother bought for him at a Petco store in San Diego. Aiden Pankey was 10 when he died in 2013 from a bacterial infection known as “rat bite fever.”

The Pankey family accused Petco of selling them a diseased rat, claiming the company knew of the danger and neglected to adequately warn customers. Aiden Pankey fell ill about two weeks after picking out his pet rat with his grandmother at a San Diego County store. He named the rat Alex.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the plaintiff’s attorney, Bibianne Fell,  alleges that for years before the Pankey’s bought their pet rat there had been reports of adults and children getting rat bite fever from Petco rats. She said there were 17 cases involving infected rats sold at Petco stores since 2001.

Petco attorney Kimberly Oberrecht argued there are risks involved in owning any pet, and that rat bite fever is not only rare in the U.S. but also treatable with antibiotics. Further, Petco customers who buy rats are given a form at the time of purchase that notifies them of the risk of rat bite fever.

While the Pankey family acknowledges receiving the information – that also included general pet care instructions – they allege the warning was not adequate and that the chain knowingly sold animals they knew carried the bacteria.

Aiden Pankey’s father is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit that was filed in 2014.  Aiden’s mother, Vanessa Sauer, settled with the defendants prior to the start of the trial.

[Feature Photo: Family Handout]