Stella Case No. 113, Originally Published: 15 November 2006
As we gear up for another season of holiday shopping, we grit our teeth, head to the mall …and take our lives into our hands dealing with traffic, parking, crowds, harried salesclerks …and killer squirrels.
At least, that’s what Marcy Meckler had to deal with at the Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Ill., one Friday morning in December 2004. (A tough punk squirrel, that is.)
She says she stepped out of the Tiffany & Co. jewelry store at the open-air mall and was making her way toward Nordstrom’s when, she says, she “had a squirrel jump up and attach itself to her leg.” Startling, to be sure, but “while frantically attempting to escape from the squirrel and detach it from her leg, [Meckler] fell and suffered severe injuries.”
The injuries were not described but Meckler’s lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court with the help of attorney Glenn Guth, says they will cause her to “in the future endure pain and suffering in body and mind.” The suit demands damages in excess of $50,000.
So how in the world is that the mall’s fault? Mall owner Westfield Corp., “by and through its agents, employees, servants and security personnel, was aware of the longtime presence of the said squirrel on the premises and allowed the squirrel to remain on the premises, despite the fact that the squirrel had previously attacked and harassed other customers, a fact known to Westfield,” the suit says.
Worse, the suit alleges mall employees “encouraged the squirrel to remain on the premises by feeding and caring for the squirrel, despite the dangerous conditions that arose from allowing said animal to remain on the premises.” Even that may have been OK, except, the suit complains, the mall failed “to warn the plaintiff of the squirrel’s presence.”
Yep, Westfield surely knew there were squirrels in the open air mall area. And I’ll bet they even know for a fact that birds fly by overhead. Heck: even bees, which some people are deathly afraid of, probably visit the flowers planted around the stores. Some of those people have severe allergic reactions to bee stings, too, and could literally die from it. AND YET THEY DIDN’T WARN anyone of these things.
Bah. All wildlife “could be” dangerous sometimes, but most of it is fine if we just leave it the hell alone and admire it, rather than harass it. Yet Meckler’s suit demands that they must harass it.
We share this planet with other living things. If we killed everything else to keep from inconveniencing petty, spoiled brats who spend their days buying bling, the planet would wither and die. So we deal with it if we want to go out in the world.
Malls can’t — and shouldn’t — control scurrying wild animals any more than they can stop birds from crapping on windshields as shoppers’ cars sit in the valet parking lot. But maybe we can do something about why-me crybabies who expect someone else to pay for overreacting to normal situations, even when they fall down and go boom. Significant monetary fines for filing frivolous actions comes to mind….
- “Mall Sued over Squirrel Attack”, Chicago Sun-Times, 15 August 2006.
- “Lawsuit: Shopping Center Aided Attacking Squirrel”, Sun-Times News Group Wire, 14 August 2006.
I searched and found no reference to any sort of resolution. This is the sort of case that, I suspect, is quietly settled for a few thousand bucks (and more is the pity). Meckler was a runner-up for the 2006 Stella Award.
My 2022 Thoughts on the Case
Life has hazards, “So we deal with it if we want to go out in the world,” I said in 2006. I can’t say that any better today.
No letters from 2006 on the previous case. Next week’s Letters section will definitely make up for it!
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