HOMEOWNER LIABLE FOR AGGRESSIVE GEESE??

Photo by David Evers [some rights reserved] In a divided opinion issued yesterday, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in a case involving an attack by a domestic goose. The plaintiff in the case, Janet Olier was attacked and injured by a domestic goose owned by the defendant, Donna Bailey. Olier sued Bailey in the County Court of Jackson County under the theory of premises liability and, alternatively, under the dangerous propensity rule. The trial court granted summary judgment for Olier which was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Jackson County. On appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, the finding was affirmed that there was no general premises liability claim, but reversed so that Olier could proceed under the dangerous-propensity rule. The basic facts were that Olier wanted to see Bailey’s blooming banana plant. Bailey kept domestic geese in her yard. Baily told Olier that the geese would not bite as long as Bailey was present, and Bailey gave Olier a bamboo pole to fend off the birds. However, the geese came at Olier squawking and hissing and a goose reached out and nipped her. Olier then turned to run and tripped over a bucket breaking her arm. In evaluating the premise liability claim, the Court analyzed the status of Olier and agreed that she was a licensee. As a licensee, Bailey only owed Olier a duty to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring her. Primarily because the geese were not a hidden danger – Bailey had a sign warning visitors of their presence – the Court found that Bailey did not breach her duty...