You Be the Judge: Honked Off

A man breaks his wrist on his employer's property while fending off a Canada goose. Should the employer pay?


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While trying to report to work, Nolan, a delivery man for a business in Oak Brook, Illinois, was blocked from entering the building by two very honked-off Canada geese. As the geese flapped their wings and hissed at him, Nolan backed up and ran toward another entrance.

Nolan was used to seeing flocks of geese around the business complex. The only problem he had ever experienced with them was the occasional misfortune of stepping on goose droppings. The geese generally preferred the grass around the nearby retention pond.

As he approached the other door, Nolan wondered what had provoked the geese. It was February, long before these birds would have had goslings to protect. Just then, another goose came after Nolan. In the commotion, he fell down and fractured his wrist.

“The goose started acting crazy,” he later explained. “I tried to hurry into the building, but it flew at my face. I tried to fan it off. It was very ferocious.”

Nolan later sued his employer for damages, claiming the business was responsible for the “fowl” behavior of the goose. The company argued that it could not be held responsible for the wildlife that happened to land in their parking lot.

How Would You Rule?

An Illinois court held the employer responsible because the landscape around the building created conditions, such as grass and a pond, that attracted the geese. Nolan’s attorneys compared this action to a case involving a security guard killed by a stray bullet fired from a public housing development across the street. The guard’s employer was ordered to pay because the shooting had occurred in a high-crime area, subjecting the guard to a higher risk than that faced by the general public.


This article is featured in the May/June 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. I do agree with the Illinois court’s ruling in holding Nolan’s employer responsible for the reasons given, and the comparisons with the tragic security guard case. Still, it’s somewhat tricky (perhaps wrong) to compare the two knowing the outcome of one was death, and the other a fractured wrist resulting from a fall in the course of being terrorized by these geese.

    We don’t know the severity of his wrist injury, how long would he be impaired, and how it might affect his ability to earn a living moving forward. His company would be well advised to seek measures to rectify this problem before the situation occurs again with possibly even more serious consequences.

    The court would surely take Nolan’s case into account and come down much harder on the company if they couldn’t prove they’d made substantial efforts of prevention. Hopefully with that done, there wouldn’t BE another case to have to contend with at all.


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