Earlier this month, a jury in Maryland found against a woman who sued a shopping mall and pool store in Rockville after being attacked by a goose while on the mall’s property in 2004.
Suzanne Webster said the goose’s ferocious attack had caused her to fall and break her hip. It appears that employees knew the goose was nesting on the property, but the defendants successfully argued that — setting aside whether they could be responsible for the goose’s decision to attack in the first place — the goose is a protected species and so they were not allowed to interfere with the goose or the nest in any way. The plaintiff’s attorney argued that the store negligently allowed employees to feed the goose, making the situation worse, but the jury did not agree.
This is at least the fourth animal-attack lawsuit I know of that has failed. As I previously reported, in 2006 Marcy Meckler sued the Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, Illinois, claiming that it should be liable for the actions of a squirrel that jumped on her leg, causing her to panic, fall and suffer injury. Like Webster, she also argued that the mall had "encouraged the squirrel" by feeding it. I can’t find any further record of this case, which usually means a case has quietly been dismissed.
You might think that animal-attack claims can’t get more tenuous than those, but they can. In 2005, an Illinois woman sued Lowe’s Hardware after a bird flew into the back of her head while she was in the outdoor lawn & garden area. The woman said that Lowe’s was responsible for the bird strike because it "allowed wild birds to enter" said area (namely, the outdoors), thus creating a dangerous condition. I did find one report stating that this case was dismissed in January 2006.
Finally, I also happen to know that in the late 1990s, a woman sued Sears, Roebuck & Co. making allegations similar to those later made by Meckler. That woman claimed she fell and hurt herself after panicking when a bat flew at her head. (A fruit bat of some kind, not a bat that somebody threw at her.) I know this because we represented Sears in that case. It was the only deposition I’ve ever desperately wanted to take.
After the Maryland verdict, the score in negligent-animal-attack cases is now: Animals 4, Women 0.
Link: WJZ-TV (Baltimore)