Golfer sues Maui County for duck or goose attack

Golfer sues Maui County for duck or goose attack
Published: Sep. 14, 2012 at 9:37 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 14, 2012 at 10:36 PM HST
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WAIEHU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) – A Wailuku man has sued Maui County for negligence, claiming he suffered a cut hand and back injury after being attacked by a duck or goose at the county's Waiehu Golf Course.

The picturesque 18-hole course sits on 174 acres of land along the shore north of Wailuku.  It shares beachfront with the county's Waiehu Beach Park.

A lawyer for Ray Sakamura filed the lawsuit against the county Tuesday, alleging Sakamura was attacked by a duck or goose just after he teed off at the second hole of the course January 26.

Sakamura claimed the bird bit his pant leg.

"I tried to back away from the duck/goose and fell onto my back and side as a result," Sakamura said in a claim filed with the county March 23. "The duck/goose continued to attack me and bit my hand hard enough to cause bleeding.  I pulled the duck/goose off me and moved to my cart where I used a band-aid to treat the wound."

As a result of the attack, Sakamura claimed he suffered an L4 compression fracture in his back and "required additional first aid to treat the bite wound on my hand."

Sakamura said he'd been treated by two doctors at Maui Medical Group, where he was also undergoing physical therapy and chiropractic treatment because of the attack, according to his injury claim.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday claimed the county knew the bird had attacked people previously but didn't warn golfers about the danger.  It asked for an undetermined amount of damages.

"I actually think that this claim is merit less," said Moana Lutey, a Maui County deputy corporation counsel who's defending the county in the case. "There's absolutely no liability against the county for what happened to the claimant."

Lutey said the county denied Sakamura's initial claim that he filed in March.

"We don't own or maintain any of the wildlife that is out there, nor have we ever in the past received any complaints about any wildlife, birds or otherwise, attacking anyone on the golf course," Lutey said.

Sources said some golfers at the Waiehu course would feed birds there, prompting some ducks or geese to follow golfers along the course.

"The county does take seriously the safety of anyone on its property. And had there been a problem with any animals on that course, we would have addressed it immediately," Lutey said.

Wailuku attorney Jan Apo, who's representing Sakamura, did not return phone messages left by Hawaii News Now asking for comment Friday.

It's unclear what type of bird was the culprit.  Several county employees said it was not a nene goose, Hawaii's state bird.  One employee believed it was a duck while another said it was a goose.

Deputy Maui Parks Director Patrick Matsui said the alleged attack happened near the course's irrigation pond.  Matsui said as far as he knows, just that one bird was hanging out at the county's lone golf course.

After the attack, county officials caught the bird and took it to a bird refuge on another part of the island to release it, Matsui said.

"They got rid of him, so there's no more duck.  It was just that one duck," Matsui added.

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