Lawsuit Alleges Duck Attack

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KATU in Portland reports that a woman who says she was attacked by a duck at a trailer park has sued the duck's owner.

Plaintiff alleges in part that said duck was a repeat offender.

According to the complaint (which KATU was kind enough to post), Cynthia Ruddell alleges that she was just stepping out of her motor home "on or about May 7, 2012," when she was suddenly attacked by a local duck. The duck's onslaught allegedly caused Ms. Ruddell "to fall in her attempt to escape the duck, landing on her right outstretched hand and fracturing bones in her right wrist." She also injured her right elbow and shoulder, the complaint says, and to date has incurred somewhere around $25,000 in medical expenses.

Most reports say the plaintiff is "seeking $275,000 [or $250,000] in damages for the duck attack, but that's not strictly true. The "prayer" is for $275,000, but the only definite amount stated is the $25k for expenses. The rest of it is a claim for "noneconomic damage [pain and suffering] in an amount to be determined by the jury, but … currently estimated not to exceed $250,000." I have no idea whether that number is significant under Oregon law or is just random.

What was not random, according to the complaint, was the attack itself. The complaint doesn't allege it was premeditated, but it does allege that the defendant—somewhat improbably named "Lolita Rose"—knew of the duck's dangerous propensities yet failed to warn the public in any way:

At the above-described time and place, Defendant Lolita Rose was negligent in one or more of the following particulars:

    a) Failing to maintain proper control of her domestic animal;

    b) Failing to warn or otherwise inform neighbors of her duck's dangerous propensity in attacking individuals;

    c) Failing to contain her duck on her own property; and

    d) Needlessly endangering the public by her above failures.

The complaint also includes a strict-liability claim:

As the possessor of a domestic animal that the Defendant knew, or had reason to know, had abnormally dangerous propensities in attacking people in an aggressive manner similar to how it attacked and injured Mrs. Ruddell, Defendant is strictly liable for all injuries her duck caused Mrs. Ruddell.

This of course assumes that the duck had attacked before, and did so in an aggressive manner, although I'm not sure there's another way to attack someone. I guess we did invade Iraq in self-defense, so maybe that precedent will be cited here. In any event, the complaint does not include any specifics about how the duck allegedly acquired a taste for human flesh (okay, I'm exaggerating slightly), but maybe we will learn more as other victims come forward.

It appears that the duck itself has already paid the ultimate price. According to Reuters, Ruddell's lawyer "said it was his understanding that Rose had her duck killed after the incident."

The lawyer said he had also learned his lesson. "In any future lawsuit," he said, "I'll talk about my client being attacked by a 'domestic animal.' Not by a duck."' That is probably wise.

Those of you who don't think such animals attack women have not been paying attention. In fact, back when I was keeping highly unscientific track of such things, I was tempted to conclude that they only attack women. Or at least only women were suing as a result. I think eventually some guy sued after a goose attack so my count stopped at 6-1, but now I'm upping it to 7-1.

Also, note that there is (or was) even a federal insurance billing code for "bitten by duck" (it's W6161X, FYI). But as I pointed out at the time, there are (or were) lots of codes for extremely rare injuries, so I don't think we can conclude anything from that.