Friday Florida Law Update

TGIF, all, and welcome back to the blog!  Friday is when I discuss a recent opinion from a Florida court.  In full disclosure, I will be discussing civil cases 99% of the time, as I do not engage in any level of criminal practice. 

Today we discuss Borrack v. Reed, 2011 WL 611859 (Fla. 4th DCA February 23, 2011), a new opinion from the Fourth District Court of Appeal.  In Borrack, the Fourth DCA reversed a dismissal with prejudice of a negligence action based on a practical joke gone awry.

The parties in Borrack were a dating couple who took a trip to West Virginia for Borrack to meet the defendant’s family.  During the trip, the parties went to a local lake for some water skiing.  During the trip, Borrack alleges that Reed tricked her into jumping off a high cliff into the lake by taking her to the top over her objection, jumping off while she was not looking, and having his nephew below tell Borrack to jump, making her think Reed needed her assistance.  Borrack indeed jumped, severely injuring herself in the process.

Admitting that the facts amounted to an intentional prank gone bad, the defendant successfully argued to the trial court that negligence could not be established because his behavior did not create a “foreseeable zone of risk.”  Reed claimed that the law does not require one to prevent others from voluntarily injuring theirself. 

The Fourt DCA analyzed cases in Florida and those throughout the country relating to pranks gone wrong.  Prior to Borrack, no Florida court had analyzed the issue of whether an intentional prank could give rise to a negligence action.  However, the Court located decisions in Kansas, North Carolina and Georgia which attached negligence to injurious pranks.  Ultimately, the Court reversed, finding that Reed’s actions of accompanying Borrack to the top against her will, refusing to escort her to the bottom of the cliff, abandoning her at the top, and making her believe he needed her help created a foreseeable zone of risk. 

We learn two things from this opinion.  First, injurious pranks may now be actionable in Florida in negligence.  Second, if you insist on tricking your girlfriend, don’t make it a prank involving cliff diving.  Go with the old “fake ice cube with a fire ant inside” gag!  

Have a great weekend all!!

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