A fowl lawsuit
News Service Feb. 29, 2008, 5:39am
A goose goosed Aaron E. Richards.
Now he's hoping a U.S. District Court will lay him a golden egg.
An egg that's worth "in excess of $75,000" to be exact, compliments of Richards' employer, rail giant CSX.
As first reported recently by The Record, the train conductor is charging CSX is responsible for the actions of a wild goose who was believed to reside in Jackson County.
This goose allegedly assaulted Mr. Richards back in 2005 while he was performing a brake test on a rail car in a yard near Ravenswood.
According to his complaint, the goose jumped out from under the car and knocked him down.
It "was previously known by (CSX) to have nested in its yard area," Richards said.
That's his lawyers reasoning in seeking to portray the company as negligent. The goosing took place on CSX property. And the company effectively aided and abetted the goose with its ambivalence toward its existence. Or something like that.
Richards says he deserves to get paid because he is in pain. He's vague about what kind, explaining merely that the goose bumping caused him to lose "enjoyment of life."
Color us skeptical and concerned that, even in West Virginia, a plaintiff might seek to spin a wild animal attack into a nice piece of jackpot justice.
All duck-duck-goose jokes about Mr. Richards' suit aside -- and judging from reader comments, there's no shortage -- this kind of legal reasoning is as dangerous as it is laughable. Consider the unreasonable precedent it might set, as well as the broader consequences of holding CSX liable for the actions of a wild goose.
Are all West Virginians suddenly responsible for the actions of wildlife on land they own? Should we all seek to purge our yards of maurauding sparrows, blackbirds and robins? Should we start erecting barricades, barbed wire and electric fences to protect ourselves from the liability of killer squirrels and rabid rabbits?
Of course we shouldn't. We're sorry Mr. Richards is sore over his goose confrontation, and we're sad that a licensed attorney thought it appropriate to twist his tumble into a federal lawsuit. But this case should be dismissed in short order. Our courts exist to dispense justice, not help opportunists pick the deepest pockets within reach.