Oh No — The Parrot Was A Macaw! And He was Just A Hypothetical!

A big thanks to Samuel Dillard, an attorney in Columbus, Ohio, who, after I was unable to provide him the cite of the cursing parrot case – but swore (I mean, believed) that I took it from a real case – did some sleuthing and found, much to my disappointment, that the parrot was really a macaw, and that although it was a fact pattern from a real case, it was, nonetheless, only a hypothetical posited by the judge!!  OMG!

But, to my relief, it was still from a court decision!!


Cotorro, Parrot, Render, Bottomless(“Don’t be upset, Rich — parrot or macaw – I still love you!”)

After all these years telling everyone that this was a true story, it turns out that it was a just a hypothetical advanced by Judge Easterbrook of the federal Seventh Circuit court.  I am grateful that Sam was able show that the legal proposition that I advanced all these years with my parrot story was accurate and properly derived from a real case:  that an employer is responsible for sexual harassment no matter who or what causes it, if the employer did nothing to ameliorate the hostile work environment.

Here, at last, is the long-lost history of my parrot (macaw), by way of Judge Easterbrook in Dunn v. Wash. County Hosp., 429 F.3d 689, 691 (7th Cir. 2005):

“Suppose a patient kept a macaw in his room, that the bird bit and scratched women but not men, and that the Hospital did nothing. The Hospital would be responsible for the decision to expose women to the working conditions affected by the macaw, even though the bird (a) was not an employee, and (b) could not be controlled by reasoning or sanctions. It would be the Hospital’s responsibility to protect its female employees by excluding the offending bird from its premises. This is, by the way, the norm of direct liability in private law as well: a person “can be subject to liability for harm resulting from his conduct if he is negligent or reckless in permitting, or failing to prevent, negligent or other tortious conduct by persons, whether or not his servants or agents, upon premises or with instrumentalities under his control.” Restatement (2d) of Agency § 213(d).”

Here’s a very big shout out to Sam:    “Aarrcck, thanks Sam!  Gotta cracker?”

(Sam at least is real – I think).


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]