British Columbia

Sale of defective parrot leads to B.C. lawsuit

There’s legal precedent, and then there’s Monty Python. The two overlapped this week when a B.C. small claims court sided with a Salt Spring Island resident who sued another man for allegedly selling him a defective parrot.

Tribunal finds seller didn't misrepresent, but that the bird came with an implied warranty

Tiberius the parrot appeared to be well, but for a few lost feathers when he was purchased for $2,100. But the bird turned out to have a fatal disease, leading to a lawsuit. (Facebook/Michael Davy)

There's legal precedent, and then there's Monty Python.

The two overlapped this week when a B.C. small claims court sided with a Salt Spring Island resident who sued another man for allegedly selling him a defective parrot.

According to the Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, Michael Davy said he noticed the parrot — Tiberius — was missing a few tail feathers when he bought it but was told the bird was only "molting and had clipped wings but was otherwise healthy."

But to paraphrase one of the British comedy troupe's most beloved sketches, in which an irate customer confronts a shopkeeper who sold him a dead parrot — the plumage didn't enter into it.

Tiberius should have had a life expectancy of up to 40 years. Davy soon learned he had a fatal disease and — in fact — faced the prospect of becoming an ex-parrot in a just a fraction of that time.

"I find that there was an implied warranty in the parties' contract that Tiberius would be healthy for at least six months," wrote tribunal member Julie Gibson.

"Instead, Tiberius became very ill within weeks of the applicant's purchase."

'He thought this was due to molting'

The namesake of a Roman emperor and general, Tiberius is an Eclectus parrot — a popular bird whose males are known for their bright green feathers.

Experts say the breed's pensive manner can lead to the misapprehension that the Eclectus is "dim-witted."

But according to the ruling, Davy noticed something more than just a little off with Tiberius in September 2019, weeks after bringing him home.

And he wasn't just pining for the fjords.

The comedy troupe Monty Python immortalized the sale of a parrot in one of their most beloved sketches. Cast members line up on a beach in an undated photo. From left are John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, the late Terry Jones, the late Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Eric Idle. (PBS/Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd/AP)

"He noticed that Tiberius was missing some tail feathers, but thought this was due to Tiberius' diet, which has been seed only but would ideally include lot of fruits and vegetables," Gibson wrote.

A veterinarian diagnosed Tiberius with psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), "an extremely contagious and lethal virus" that is usually contracted "from a contaminated environment or directly from an infected bird."

Even with medication he had between "weeks and several years to live." 

'Implied warranty'

Davy paid Akhtar Kidwai $2,100 for Tiberius.

Kidwai told the tribunal he agreed Tiberius was missing some feathers at the time of sale in August 2019.

"He thought this was due to molting," Gibson wrote.

"Molting is a healthy parrot's natural shedding process, during which parrots lose old feathers and grow new ones."

Kidwai denied knowing that Tiberius was ill and insisted that his facility was clean and that none of his other birds were infected.

Davy accused Kidwai of making a fraudulent misrepresentation, but the dispute resolution tribunal member said the accusation failed to meet the burden of proof.

A pre-purchase photograph of Tiberius sitting in a planter showed him looking healthy.

That matched Davy's initial observations of the bird when he emailed to say the parrot was "doing great" and had "settled in well" shortly after bringing him to the island, which sits between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

But Gibson did find that B.C.'s Sale of Goods Act applied to the parrot's purchase.

The law carries an "implied warranty" that a "good will be durable for a reasonable period having regard to the use to which it would normally be put and to all the surrounding circumstances."

Given the life expectancy of the average Eclectus parrot, Gibson said Davy had every right to expect Tiberius to be healthy for at least six months after buying the bird.

She found that Davy had received some "benefit" from owning Tiberius — awarding him 75 per cent of the purchase price as a refund. 

Gibson also ordered Kidwai to pay Davy's veterinary bills, bringing the total award to just under $1,900.

The judgment does not specify the current state of Tiberius's health. 

Reached by Facebook, Davy was unequivocal about the experience.

"I was sold a parrot with a terminal illness," he said. "Plain and simple."

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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