In the quiet town of Webster, Massachusetts, a small claims case is causing some squawking. A resident who lives on Webster Lake is seeking to hold a local woman liable for feeding the seagulls that frequent the lake. The man claims that the seagulls, after being fed, poop all over his dock and boat.
As a result of the seagull feces, he is suing for $2,000 in order to replace his boat seating as well as to clean up his dock. Though some might think it is unfair to hold the bird feeding lady liable, the city issued a cease and desist to her specifically demanding that she stop feeding the seagulls, yet she persisted.
Can You Really Sue Over Bird Poop?
Though people can't really control where a wild animal poops, cases such as these rely on the legal theory of nuisance. Basically, the broad concept is that if your neighbor is doing something that lures wild animals to your neighborhood, and those animals are causing problems, a nuisance claim might be your only option. To be successful on a claim for nuisance, a plaintiff must show that:
- They own or have the right to possess a property.
- The defendant has interfered with the plaintiff's enjoyment or use of their property.
- The interference was substantial and unreasonable.
Battle of the Birds
While it happens infrequently, this isn't the first time a lawsuit has been filed over some bird poop. Back in 2015, a Seattle family was the subject of much scrutiny after being sued for creating a nuisance by feeding birds in their yard. The family wasn't just hanging a few birdfeeders though, they were putting out enough food to feed a small army of birds, and they in fact were feeding multiple small armies of birds on a daily basis.
As a result, the neighborhood, which was filled with high value real estate, became overrun with crows that would squawk at all hours of the day and night, and poop all over neighboring cars, homes, sidewalks, and even children's play structures. After a year of battling it out, this case settled last month for an undisclosed amount, as well as an set of restrictions on feeding animals for the defendants for the next 8 years.