West Virginia Record

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Goosed conductor 'fowls' out

By The West Virginia Record | Jul 24, 2009

Actress Tippi Hedren may have watched this case closely.

Pecked to pieces by murderous birds in the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film classic, "The Birds," she might have found happiness in Aaron E. Richards' audaciousness.

But Richards' quest to get jackpot justice out of his bird encounter fell flat this week. He learned that getting knocked down by a wild goose on someone's property does not entitle one to $24,000 in "damages."

Richards tried to hold CSX Transportation responsible for "negligently" allowing a wild goose to nest in one of its railyards near Ravenswood. Four years ago, that goose startled him as he performed a brake test on a midnight train to Parkersburg, causing him to tumble backward in the dark.

As reported in The Record this past week, jurors needed less than half an hour to reject Richards' claim that CSX was responsible for his tumble because it didn't remove the offending fowl.

It didn't help Richards' argument that on a form he filled out at the hospital after the incident, Richards acknowledged that the accident was no one's fault. Later he sued, deciding, perhaps at the urging of counsel, that someone was to blame and $24,000 would ease his suffering.

In a simpler time, Richards and his attorneys might have been tarred, goose-feathered and run out on a rail for making such a claim. Instead, the court had to use your taxpayer dollars and valuable courtroom time to convene a jury so it could state the obvious: wild animals are wild animals.

On a positive note, Hitchcock's estate and the thespian residents of Bodega Bay can sleep more soundly -- there remains no precedent for holding them responsible for the actions of sinister seagulls running amok. For now.

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