Emu Owner Sues His Insurer When Claim Doesn’t Fly


When his first emu died in a fight with its disinterested mate, owner Richard C. Skorka of San Juan Capistrano absorbed the $25,000 loss.

But when his second emu died of kidney disease, and a third jumped out of its pen, caught its toe in the fence and died of suffocation, Skorka filed claims with his insurance company.

On Thursday, Skorka filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court alleging the insurance company has refused to pay.


Skorka, a real estate developer, was out of state Thursday, but his attorney, John F. Damiani, said his client had purchased six emus as an investment for about $25,000 each in hopes of breeding them.

The emu, the world’s tallest bird except for the ostrich, grows to 5 1/2 feet and 100 pounds. In their native Australia, the flightless birds are considered pests because they eat crops and tear down sheep fences. But they also are valuable for their meat and feathers.

In his suit, Skorka said he paid a premium of $3,248 to the Lexington Insurance Co. “to cover any losses . . . as a result of the death of any of (Skorka’s) covered emus by reason of accident, illness or disease.”

Lexington offered Skorka a $25,000 settlement for the two dead birds, claiming that he had filed misleading information on the insurance application, Damiani said. The confusion involved the word bird, the lawyer said.

In answer to the question of how long he had been raising “birds,” Skorka wrote 15 years, Damiani said. When questioned by the insurance company, Skorka said he had been raising parakeets for 15 years, and had purchased his first emu in January of 1994.

Attorneys for Lexington, which is based outside of California, could not be reached for comment Thursday.