MEG JONES Sentinel staff writer Milwaukee Sentinel
Published: December 13, 1993

$1.45 million awarded in bird dropping suit

A Milwaukee County jury has awarded $1.45 million to a man who claimed he contracted a debilitating disease from pigeon droppings in a far north side warehouse.
The jury found that North Milwaukee Industries Inc., 5023 N. 35th St., was negligent in allowing pigeons to inhabit the warehouse and for improperly maintaining the property. Jerry Wilson, 55, contracted blastomycosis, an infectious fungal ailment also known as Gilchrist's disease, in 1988 while working as a production manager for Stippich Systems Inc., a now- closed decorative panel fabrication company that rented the warehouse.
It's the first known case in the United States of negligence that led to contracting blastomycosis, said Wilson's attorney, James Murphy.
The jury decided that Wilson contracted the disease in 1988 from airborne spores from pigeon droppings in the warehouse. Jurors also found that the company allowed a dozen to 40 pigeons to live in the warehouse.
Wilson suffered serious injuries, including permanent swelling of his right leg, which have prevented him from holding or obtaining a job for nearly five years. Though the disease is no longer active, Wilson is disabled because he can't stand for long periods, Murphy said.
Dwight Zimmermann, a partner for North Milwaukee Industries, said his firm contended that Wilson could have gotten the disease anywhere. He said he didn't know if the company would appeal the jury's ruling.
"Pigeons are all over the city of Milwaukee," Zimmermann said. "It's possible a person can get blastomycosis by just being in the city."
North Milwaukee Industries has owned the North Milwaukee Industrial Center, formerly the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron complex, since 1983.

Copyright 1993 Journal/Sentinel Inc.