The Attack of the Foreign Goose on JCPenney Soil

On March 31, 2006, Betty Walker, her daughter, and her granddaughter were walking to the Penney store via the sidewalk around the Penney building at the Greenwood Park Mall when a Canada goose attacked Mrs. Walker. The goose landed on her head, forcing her into a brick wall and then onto the sidewalk, a sidewalk owned by JCPenney.  The attack continued until passersby assisted Mrs. Walker. Mrs. Walker filed suit against JCPenney, the mall, and IPC, the mall’s security company for their failure to protect her from rogue foreign geese.  The mall and IPC moved for summary judgment, and the court granted summary judgment to the two parties.  JCPenney appealed.

The court held that the agreement between JCPenney and the mall provided that the mall had no duty for maintenance or security on property areas owned by tenants.  The sidewalk on which Mrs. Walker was attacked was not mall property but that of JCPenney.  Therefore, the mall and IPC were not responsible for customers in that area.  The summary judgment was upheld and JCPenney was left to go forward with the suit with the main question being whether the owner of commercial property has a duty to protect its patrons from injury resulting from the activities of a third party (goose).  The issues of duty and forseeability were left for trial.  Relevant questions for the case:

  1.  Had other customers been attacked?
  2. Was JCPenney aware of the goose risk?
  3. Should JCPenney have been aware of the goose risk?
  4. Should JCPenney have provided customer security in the area where the goose attacked?
  5. What are the public policy implications of holding a landowner liable for the activities of the natural fauna on the property?

These are the types of cases that provide us with great law class discussions as well as issues of probability:  What are the chances that a goose would attack a customer?  What are the chances that a goose would attack a customer in an area where the mall and its security company would not have jurisdiction?  Astronomical odds do make for great legal cases.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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