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Can Viral Video Pranks Prompt Lawsuits?

Dan Brian   |  January 30, 2015   |  

This is a creative way to spread ALS awareness via social media and in communities nationwide.

Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association

It may seem like harmless fun, but you could find yourself liable for battery in a civil lawsuit—all from a mere prank.

Take, for instance, the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” a phenomenon of sorts on the social media circuit. The activity involves dousing people with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

However, throwing a bucket of ice on someone who didn’t ask you to might not inspire donations. In fact, it might inspire a call to the cops, making you liable for battery. Battery is defined as the harmful or offensive touching of another person without consent. Dousing an unsuspecting person with water and ice is considered “touching” under the law.

Even well-intentioned supporters of the ALS challenge should keep in mind the potential for injury during ice bucket challenge fails. Several people have ended up with bumps, bruises and even trips to the emergency room from:

  • Being knocked over
  • Falling into bodies of water
  • Scratching their corneas on chunks of ice

Martha Cook of New Bern, North Carolina, was knocked on the head by a metal bucket after her 8-year-old nephew, standing a few feet above her, was unable to hold on. The impact brought Cook, 50, to her knees and left a dent in the bucket. “It was forceful. It knocked me down,” she said.

A 19-year-old college student ended up in the ER after being hit with a bucket, which also knocked a 5-year-old girl standing next to her on the ground.

Four Kentucky firefighters were injured when the ladder on their truck got too close to power lines. The group had just finished dousing cold water on the Campbellsville University marching band when they were shocked by electricity.

While the viral fundraiser continues to raise millions for a worthy cause, if you plan to participate you’ll want to make sure you are not putting yourself or anyone else at risk. Also, make sure everyone has volunteered to be a part of the fundraiser.

Call (800) 525-7111 or use our case evaluation form to find out more about your legal options today.