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Jury clears Petco of wrongdoing in $20 million lawsuit after child dies from ‘rat bite fever’

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A jury in California has found that a pet store is not to blame for the death of a 10-year-old boy.

Family members say 10-year-old Aidan Pankey died in 2013 after contracting ‘rat bite fever’ from his pet rat, Alex.

The family says that the boy’s grandmother purchased Alex from a Petco store nearby.

Just 17 days after she bought the rat, Aidan became sick with flu-like symptoms and died one day later.

Following his death, Aidan’s family sued Petco for $20 million, claiming it failed to protect customers from potentially dangerous pets.

“[Petco] had knowledge that its customers, children, it was selling its pet rats to, were contracting rat bite fever from those rats and getting very, very sick,” the family’s attorney, Bibianne Fell, argued.

Petco argues that it sold nearly 5 million rats between 2001 and 2013 with only 16 claims of people contracting the disease. All of those patients were treated and recovered from rat bite fever.

The company also argued that the boy’s grandmother signed a document about health hazards when she purchased the rat.

According to KFMB, the jury sided with Petco, saying they did everything they needed to do to warn customers about the potential dangers.