Moos like a duck | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (November 4, 2022, 2:23 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
Marcel Strigberger
Glad you asked me to talk about ducks.   

A giant inflatable duck which was moored in Belfast Harbour, Maine, broke off its tethers and floated off into the ocean. Authorities tried to capture and return it, but their ropes snapped, and the thing is still out there. Its very arrival to the harbour for that matter is a mystery. I see legal consequences here.

Firstly, as I recall my law school tort law, the town might be liable for cattle trespass. Owners of cattle which stray off their property causing trouble to strangers are clearly strictly liable. 

Some may suggest ducks are not cattle. Nonsense. The only things distinguishing ducks from say cows is that they don’t have horns, don’t provide milk and don’t go moo. These qualities in my view just go to a difference in breed, not animal; i.e., Jersey, Holstein, Mallard. I grew up in a city. It does not take Old McDonald to see ducks are cattle.

Another potential issue is mental distress. The sudden appearance of this giant duck (or cow, if you agree there is little difference between the two) might terrify some people. I can see some lighthouse keeper oblivious to what is happening out there, enjoying a good grog when suddenly this monstrous creature floats by his porthole. To the keeper it looks like King Kong in duck. He grabs his hat and coat and bolts in a panic, expecting this thing to start climbing up the lighthouse. This is actionable mental distress. I’m sure were something like this to take place in Canada, the Supreme Court would say,“It is trite law that when a guest at the Château Laurier looks out the window, he expects to see the Parliament buildings, not a giant yellow duck floating in the Rideau Canal peeking into his room. This is serious. We are not talking some sap noticing a fly in his spring water tank. The defendant has a duty to keep his ducks in a row.”

Actually a giant duck similar to this one also appeared off the coast of Quebec City during World War II. It was spotted by a German U-boat which snuck up near the shore intending to do damage. The terrified captain grabbed hold of his periscope and took a gander. He exclaimed, “Yikes, Eine gros ente. Ve moof ” 

Then of course there are potential environmental issues. What was this duck carrying? Does anybody know? This may not be a lame duck. We could be facing another Exxon Valdez.  

And even if there are no toxic materials inside this thing could very well be something like a foreign power spy satellite. What might they be looking for in Belfast Harbour, Maine? Ah huh! Lobsters of course. It makes perfect sense to me that they would use a duck as a cover. Nobody would suspect a giant duck of spying on the lobster industry. A cow might be a different story. More like the elephant in the room.

And speaking of foreign powers, this duck on steroids reminds me of that Trojan horse. You don’t have to be Homer to see this one. After all what is the difference between a duck and a horse? OK, so it is not common to see people placing bets on ducks at racetracks. No $2 on Daffy. What else? You would have to be old McDonald to distinguish the two. 

But has anybody actually checked to see if there were any alien people inside the duck? I would say so far the town of Belfast Harbour was lucky in that no platoon of invaders waited till dark and then rappelled down and went to town. Then again maybe these visitors were chicken.

I trust the town of Belfast Harbour has notified its insurers about the escape.  And hopefully for the town’s sake their insurance policy does not exclude coverage for claims for damages caused by large inflatable yellow ducks. Insurance companies have been known to do that. If there is a coverage failure, the town could be bankrupted, wiped out, a dead duck.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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