Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hold your wee for a wii

When discussing the concept of "common knowledge" as a source of the duty of care (or as a way to determine what the reasonable person would do under the circumstances), I always ask my students to give me some examples of things that are common knowledge (that would relate to the class). Invariably someone says "fire burns" or "gravity makes things fall downward" -- which in turn means a reasonable person would not do things that create an unreasonable risk of injury by fire or by dropping something from above, etc. And then I go through a series of "less commonly known" facts. Sometimes students are surprised to hear some of them, including the fact that you can die if you drink too much water too fast. To illustrate, I tell them two true stories: one about a a runner who died because she drank too much water right after she finished the Chicago marathon and the now infamous "hold your wee for a wii" contest. For those of you who did not hear about this, in a nutshell the story is as follows. Some "Menlove type" genius at a radio station somewhere thought it would be funny to hold a contest to see who could hold their need to pee the longest. The contestants were given water at regular intervals and then were eliminated as they left to relieve themselves. A 28 year old mother determined to win the Wii for her son held on for so long she actually died. Other surviving contestants and the family of the one who died sued and reports are just coming in that some of the cases have settled and the rest are headed for trial. See reports here, here and here. One question I have not seen asked about the claims in this case is whether there has been a discussion of comparative negligence on the part of the plaintiffs. After all, if we are going to take the position that water poisoning/intoxication is common knowledge, then this knowledge can be applied to the plaintiffs also, no? Thanks to the TortsProf Blog for the update and the links.

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