The City Zoo (the zoo) is a privately owned, non-profit facility. Its mission is to display and preserve wild animals, while educating the public about those animals. The zoo is open to the public for an admission fee, and the fees collected help to finance the zoo’s operations.
Part of the zoo is dedicated to raptors, or birds of prey. In this open-air section, visitors can walk a network of paths. Along the paths are tall, screened cages housing hawks, eagles, and similar birds. The birds’ sharp beaks and talons can cause serious injury. Accordingly, a four-foot-tall fence runs along the path in front of each cage, with at least six feet of open ground between the fence and each cage. At eight-foot intervals along each fence, the zoo has conspicuously posted large warning signs that read: “DANGER! Beaks and talons are sharp! Do not approach cages or reach through screens! Injury may result!”
At set intervals throughout each day, a zoo employee circulates from cage to cage to feed the birds. At the back of each cage, facing away from the path, is a door, which is padlocked from the outside. Each door features a sign reading, “Employees Only.” At feeding time, the employee walks around behind the cage, unlocks the padlock with a key, cracks open the door, and throws chunks of raw meat into the cage. Employees never fully enter the cages, because the birds—carnivores by nature—might attack. After feeding, the zoo’s rules require employees to lock the padlocks, in order to secure the doors.
P is a 21-year-old man visiting the zoo with friends. In the raptor section, P stops in front of a cage to watch a zoo employee feeding a pair of hawks. After the employee leaves, P decides to show off to his friends by entering the cage. P has read and understood the warning signs, but they do not deter him. P jumps the fence, walks around to the back of the cage, and finds that the employee has left the padlock open.
When P opens the door and steps into the cage, one of the hawks flies at his head and attacks him. The hawk’s razor-sharp beak and talons cause deep lacerations to P’s face and arms, plus damage to his right eye. Hurting and panicked, P screams and runs out the door. The hawk remains in the cage to resume devouring a chunk of meat the employee left there.
Still panicking, P continues to run around the end of the fence and across the path. Paying no attention to his surroundings, he collides with a bench at the edge of the path. Upon impact, P flips over the bench, hits the ground, and breaks his arm.
P sues the zoo for personal injury. The relevant jurisdiction follows the common law regarding a land occupier’s liability to those on the premises. Assume that the law does not provide for strict liability in this case.
- Did the zoo, as an occupant of land, breach any duty owed to P? Explain, disregarding any potential defenses.