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Golfer Sues Over Bird Attack on Course

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

A golf-course bird attack allegedly caused a Hawaii man's injury, and now he wants the county to pay.

Ray Sakamura of Wailuku, Hawaii, was golfing at the Waiehu Golf Course on the island of Maui in January when a large bird, described in his lawsuit as a "duck/goose," allegedly attacked him, Hawaii's KHNL/KGMB-TV reports.

Sakamura tried to back away, but fell and hurt his back, his lawsuit asserts. The large bird bit his hand hard and caused bleeding.

So why is Maui County being sued?

Because the beachfront golf course is owned by Maui County, and the county knew the duck or goose had attacked other golfers in the past, Ray Sakamura's golf-course bird attack lawsuit states.

By failing to warn other golfers of the bird's danger, the county was negligent, Sakamura's lawsuit claims. He's seeking an undetermined amount of damages.

But one of Maui County's lawyers told KHNL/KGMB, "We don't own or maintain any of the wildlife that is out there, nor have we ever in the past received any complaints."

"Had there been a problem with any animals on that course, we would have addressed it immediately," the county's lawyer continued.

In general, a property owner owes a duty to invitees (such as customers) to take reasonable steps to make sure the premises are safe. That arguably includes getting rid of, or warning about, the presence of any aggressive wild animals.

If the lawsuit proceeds, a jury may get to decide if the county should have known about the aggressive bird, and whether it took reasonable steps to make the golf course safe.

A jury may also get to consider whether Sakamura perhaps contributed to his own injury, such as by possibly teasing the bird. If so, that could reduce his award, or bar recovery altogether.

In most injury lawsuits against the government, an injured victim generally must first file a government tort claim to give the government a chance to deal with the claim. In Sakamura's case, Maui County rejected the tort claim that he filed in March; that clears the way for his lawsuit to move forward.

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