034: Duck!!

Stella Case No. 034, Originally Published: 29 January 2003

In Florida, it’s not unusual for alligators to pop out of the water — they’ve even been known to attack humans.

But that’s not what bothered Darlene Griffin. The 30-year-old woman was in Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, Fla., when she was “attacked” by a different kind of water creature: a goose. Griffin says she jumped between her young son and the bird to protect the boy, then fell down and broke her tailbone when the fowl tried to bite her.

She has sued Palm Beach County for allowing the wild animal to roam free in a public park. She is asking for at least $15,000 to cover her medical bills, as well as her “mental and physical anguish.”

Griffin’s attorney Joe Fields says that county officials later removed several geese from the park, including the one which attacked his client — which shows the geese are dangerous, he says. So according to him, the county was wrong to let a wild animal exist in the park, yet removing it proves it’s at fault. In America’s civil courts you’re damned if you don’t, and really damned if you do.


  • “Woman Suing County after Goose Run-in,” Palm Beach Post, 24 January 2003
  • “Woman Sues Palm Beach County over Attack by Goose at Okeeheelee Park,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 24 January 2003

Case Status

I saw one reference that said “the case did not succeed” but wasn’t able to find a second source to confirm that.

My 2020 Thoughts on the Case

Wild animals exist in nature, so one takes a risk when they choose to visit nature. This isn’t the last wild animal case we’ll see in TSA….


Mitchell, an attorney in Virginia: “One possible factor in why we lawyers tend to be held in such disrepute: When a doctor or an accountant or a plumber does something stupid, chances are no one finds out, maybe not even the client. But a lawyer’s lapses in judgment are spread on the public record forever, for everyone to see. Everyone has access to our mistakes.”

Sorry, Mitch, but I don’t buy that. When doctors make mistakes, their patients often die — and most people notice things like that! When a plumber screws up the house may be flooded, perhaps with sewage. When an accountant makes an error, the IRS often comes sniffing around. And in all of those cases, you know what? There will be lawyers ready to sue and make those mistakes public record forever!

Last issue’s “Beltway Snipers” lawsuit brought a letter disputing my take.

Travis in Washington: “I don’t know about the justness in suing the gun manufacturer, but the gun shop was in violation of several federal laws for sloppy selling of guns, not keeping records, etc. For example, the [local newspaper] articles suggest that the gun store has no record of selling the gun used in the sniper attacks. The gun just kind of ‘walked off.’ This suit doesn’t seem frivolous — and thus, doesn’t seem to fall within the ‘Stella’ realm.”

Reports do indicate that the store was sloppy — and indeed under investigation. I did address that the gun wasn’t sold — the report said it was “apparently stolen” from the store. But the litigants aren’t satisfied to wait to see what the results of the ongoing federal investigation are and are suing the store. That doesn’t, in my opinion, necessarily make them worthy of a Stella Award. What does make them worthy is including the manufacturer while, at the same time, claiming that the suit is absolutely not an attack on the rights of lawful gun owners. Either the manufacturer did something wrong or not; simply manufacturing a gun which is then used illegally by criminals should be no more of a crime (or grounds for lawsuit) than manufacturing a car which is later used illegally by criminals to run someone down.

Last, the very first TSA case was about Kurt Kooyer, a doctor who worked with poor people in rural Mississippi, a state known for generous civil juries. Dr. Kooyer was sued by a patient who admitted she was not harmed by his actions — she just jumped in on a class action lawsuit against a drug manufacturer because she hoped to get “a few thousand dollars.” Fed up with unfounded lawsuits against him, Dr. Kooyer and his obstetrician wife left Mississippi, and only two doctors are left to serve a two-county area. Dr. Kooyer did his patient no harm, but his patient, by suing, harmed every one of her neighbors, who now have less access to medical care. I’m proud to say Dr. Kooyer is now a TSA reader.

He writes, “I appreciated your description of my case. I would like to say your piece was the best publicity I received from a ridiculous lawsuit, but I’m afraid being called to a roundtable with the president himself took tops. I appreciate your work.”

Dr. Kooyer sat next to Mrs. Bush during the president’s State of the Union Address Wednesday night (which I unfortunately missed since I was at a funeral). I don’t know if TSA helped get Dr. Kooyer’s story in front of the president, but it’s good to know that our lawmakers are starting to look at the kinds of cases I report on with as much disgust as I do.

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7 Comments on “034: Duck!!

  1. My husband got slammed in the head by a duck coming in for a landing at Animal Kingdom in WDW. He ended up with a headache and double vision; we had to go back to the room. But folks told me later that we should have pursued it (the head “injury,” not the duck) because Disney would have probably comped us in some way. Really? The duck was just doing what ducks do and Disney certainly wasn’t responsible for local ducks choosing to visit the Animal Kingdom!

  2. The first time that I was sued, I found out about it by reading it in the newspaper. That seems to be pretty public to me.

    That sounds like one heck of a story…. -rc

  3. I am a retired nurse, an LVN. While I was still working, I was assigned a patient who had had back surgery that required several days of hospitalization. The patient was an older woman, and while I would not call her obese, she was large, over 6 feet tall, with weight to match. The particular hospital I worked for was part of a chain within the city, and was catering to a higher economic class of people, and, in keeping with that, all but two rooms on the ward were private (single patient) rooms, and food service was provided using china and glass.

    Somehow, I became the patient’s “favorite” nurse, and she constantly called for me, not on the intercom, but loudly down the hall. She was supposed to be on bed rest unless being walked by physical therapy. And the side rails on her bed were kept up.

    Nevertheless, the patient fell, often more than once during the night, because she climbed over the side rails. Each time she fell while she was in my care, I documented the incident, and called her attending physician requesting the use of a restraining vest. Each time that request was denied by the attending physician.

    On what turned out to be her last night in the hospital, she again climbed over the side rails and fell to the floor, but in the process, knocked a drinking glass to the floor, where it broke, and the patient landed on a shard incurring a laceration to her gluteus maximus. (I should mention at this point, I stand 6 foot 6 inches tall, and am muscular. I was the only nurse on the shift who was able to pick the patient up from the floor without injury to her or myself.)

    The laceration required suturing, and the Emergency Room Doctor came to the floor to do that. After he finished and was writing his notes in her chart, he asked why the lady had not been restrained. I took the chart from him, opened to my nursing notes and showed him at least two weeks of nursing notes showing that the lady’s attending physician had been requested, nightly, for permission to restrain, and his denial of the request. The ER Doctor looked at me and told me that the lady’s physician was out of touch, and that he (the ER Doctor) was covering his patients for him. AND to restrain the patient, and also wrote the order for it.

    The lady called her husband, who arrived at about 6 AM, and promptly “AMA’d” (Against Medical Advice) discharged his wife. About three weeks later, I was notified (along with many other’s on the staff) that I was being sued for, basically, illegal arrest. Fortunately, the hospital covered all of us.

    When the case went to trial, the judge looked at the patient’s lawyer and asked him if he had bothered to read the medical chart, to which he replied he had. The judge kept his language civil, but the question came down to questioning whether the lawyer was in the right profession, and then dismissed the suit, while assigning all costs to the patient.

    There is a saying in Nursing; “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.” It happened, and I documented. That entire incident did not, in my mind, reflect on the lawyer community at large, but on that particular lawyer. I cannot say the same for my fellow co-defendants, several of whom I heard saying that “all” lawyers were crooks, incompetent, etc.

    Let this be spread amongst the community of attorneys out there as a cautionary tale.

  4. Some years back one of my daughters and I were walking to a local McDonald’s and passed under some trees that were planted by the sidewalk next to the store. Suddenly a bird came out of nowhere and divebombed her head. She wasn’t harmed, just startled, and later as we sat inside and ate, we talked about it, and we both laughed. There was likely a nest in one of those trees and the bird was simply protecting its space. Should we sue the restaurant and/or chain or maybe even the city for having the audacity to have trees that might attract birds that might create nests that they might feel they need to protect? Absolutely not. Nature has been here long before we were here and will be here long after we are gone. They are not encroaching on our space, we are encroaching on theirs.

  5. There seems to be a large number of people who believe all wild animals are friendly and have attended the Walt Disney Charm School for Cute Animals.

    Many years ago I was registering for a back-county hike in Yellowstone. The ranger was very professional in pointing out I was entering the food chain and I was not at the top.

    Smart ranger. And smart of you to listen, unlike so many. -rc

    • That ranger’s description was spot on and well put!

      As another example of common obliviocy, we drove by a very large flock of Canadian geese on the weekend, scattered on one half of a local soccer field, and as we were passing by, I saw a few folks with phones in hand fearlessly approaching the birds. I get that it’s a neat sight to see so many geese altogether in one place (I estimate there might have been upwards of a hundred) but Canadian geese are big birds and can be especially cranky! We lost sight of the field before the woman leading the way stopped moving, so I can only imagine what happened when the geese decided they had had enough of the strange humans….


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