Harvey Slapstick, CEO of Jokes-R-Us, decided an April Fool’s prank on his employees was just what the company needed to boost morale. So he hired two former soldiers to conduct a fake hostage situation at the company’s office. In an effort to ensure things wouldn’t get out of hand, Slapstick advised the police and 911 emergency system. When the hostage situation went down, Jimmy Wannabe, a weekend warrior, decided to play hero. Wannabe shot the “hostage takers”, but also injured Elizabeth Little, a Jokes-R-Us employee. When Little heard that Slapstick orchestrated the prank, she sued him and the company.
Liability for Office Pranks.
Previously, we’ve written about when a prank among friends goes too far. Many companies have gotten into the act in recent years and pulled their own April Fool’s prank on customers or employees. Some pranks go well, but some pranks come off poorly. If Slapstick knew, or had reason to know, that Wannabe might take the law into his own hands, Slapstick and Jokes-R-Us are likely liable. For example, if Slapstick knew that Wannabe carried a gun with him at the office, Slapstick and Jokes-R-Us are liable for creating a dangerous situation.
Tilting the Scales in Your Favor.
April Fool’s pranks can be lots of fun, but you have to think ahead. Is there any chance that people who aren’t in on the joke could be injured, or could injure someone else? If so, the prank’s probably not one you should move forward with. You should also run your proposed prank past some friends to see if they think it’s a good idea. Slapstick clearly didn’t think things through or seek advice. In the end, the company will pay for the prank going wrong.