Another Animal-Attack Lawsuit Fails: Humans Now 0-5

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Goose! On Point News reports that last week, a West Virginia jury rejected the claims of a man who blamed his employer's negligence for injuries he suffered when he was attacked by a goose.

Based on my studies of somewhat similar cases, studies that I should mention are not even remotely scientific, this makes the score Animals 5, Humans 0.

Aaron Richards, a train conductor for CSX Transportation, alleged that he had been inspecting his train at a railyard one night when, suddenly, he heard a hissing noise, and a goose-shaped apparition loomed out of the darkness and assailed him, wings flapping madly . . . okay, I'm embellishing.  To quote the complaint, "a goose which was previously known by Defendant to have nested in its yard area suddenly jumped out from under one of the railcars, striking Plaintiff, and causing him to fall resulting in injuries and damages as herein set forth."

The damages therein set forth were nearly $24,000 for goose-related but ultimately self-inflicted injuries.

Richards was suing under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, which has been construed to allow plaintiffs to get to a jury with very little evidence of employer negligence.  He claimed that the bird had in fact been the proximate cause of his injuries, and that CSX knew it was nesting in the railyard.  His evidence of the company's knowledge was that the same bird (or possibly an impostor trying to frame the other one) had startled another worker in the same railyard just four days earlier.  Yet despite this savage startling of one of its employees, CSX did nothing.

Richards' attorney argued that CSX should have removed the goose's nest (and, presumably, the goose itself), marked the nesting area with orange cones, or (and I think this is the obvious solution) better trained its employees to report such attacks so that action could be taken.  To be fair, though, that other guy had been attacked just four days before.  It can't be easy to get a goose-attack-report training consultant on such short notice.

Goose! CSX did remove the nest after Richards was attacked, and goose experts seem to have concluded that it had been constructed some time ago.  But the jury still appears to have accepted the company's argument that there was no evidence it actually knew of the hazard.

In calling this the fifth loss for humans, I am also counting the alleged squirrel attack at a mall in Skokie, Illinois; a previous goose attack at a mall in Rockville, Maryland; a suit against Lowe's Hardware by a woman who claimed a bird flew into her head while she was in the outdoor garden area; and a similar case involving a bat-induced fall near a Sears store in Texas.  (No link for that one; my firm represented Sears.)  I am not yet counting the case I reported on in May, in which a woman shopping at Wal-Mart said a nutria named "Norman" scared her into running over her own foot, because I am not sure that complaint was ever served.  But I suspect animals, and those who harbor them, will shortly be 6-0.

Link: On Point News