1. Legal Issue
Joe Kerr placed a synthetic hallucinogen in the milk of Clark Kent as a practical joke. The drug caused Clark Kent to go wild destroying office property and injuring some of his co-workers. This gives rise to the issue of whether causes of action arise in the situation and to whom liability accrues.2. Rule of Law
Tort law applies to this situation. Tort constitutes a civil wrong recognized as a ground for legal claims and involving the award of damages as redress for the aggrieved party. The basis of the claims under tort law is that the actionable wrong caused harm or injury. One purpose of tort law is to prevent or discourage people from committing certain actions that cause harm or injury to other people. The other purpose is to bring relief, in the form of stopping the continuous infliction of harm and/or seeking award for damages on the part of the injured party. The aggrieved party can claim a number of damages including pain or suffering, medical expenses, land loss of capacity to earn at present and in the future.
There are three categories of tort. One is intentional tort comprised of wrongs that is within the reasonable anticipation of the person committing or refusing to commit an act. Another is negligent tort that arises when accidents occur due to the unreasonably unsafe act of a person. Last is strict liability established when certain actions cause damage. Examples of tort include intentionally inflicting emotional stress, negligence, and product liability. (Glannon, 2005)
Tort law emanate from the state level via the decisions of judges and state laws. There are a number of cases on practical jokes in the workplace. Coleman v. AMTRAK (1995) involved a claim by an employee against the employer for a prank committed in the workplace. In Rausch v. Pocatello Lumber Co., Inc (2000) and Black v. City and County of Honolulu (2000), the court awarded damages to the aggrieved employees suing the perpetrators and their employers for pranks causing their injuries committed at work.
Based on the facts of the case, the victim of the prank Clark Kent, the plaintiff, has a claim for damages against Joe Kerr, the defendant, under tort law for a number of reasons. There was a wrong, which caused harm to the plaintiff and to other people as well as damage to property. Although the injury to himself and to other people as well as damage to office property were committed by the plaintiff, this was only because of the hallucinogen placed by the defendant on the milk of the plaintiff directly causing the plaintiff to go berserk.
The plaintiff has a reputation as the office straight man, which means he could not have intentionally committed the harm and damage to property on his own. Without ingesting the hallucinogen, the plaintiff would not have done what he did. The plaintiff cannot be held liable for the injuries caused to his coworkers, and damage to property. Since Joe Kerr placed the hallucinogen in the milk of the plaintiff, without his knowledge, Kerr is liable for the actionable wrong by doing a prank that commenced the unbroken chain of events causing injury and damage to property.
While the employer could be included as a co-defendant in the claim for damages, the criterion used in the Rausch and Black cases is that the prank should fall within the scope of employment. In the given case, the prank was made by a single person for personal gratification or other purposes and likely within the scope of employment. The actionable wrong falls under negligent tort since the injuries and damage to property were unintended by the defendant. The plaintiff, Clark Kent, can sue Joe Kerr for damages. Since the injuries and damage to property were made by Clark Kent, his employer and his coworkers may also sue him for damages but he can make a third party claim against Joe Kerr.
Pranks may be fun but it can have dire legal consequences, which in this case is the filing of claims under tort law for damages relating to an actionable wrong.
Glannon, J. W. (2005). The law of torts: Examples and explanations. New York: Aspen Publishers.
Black v. City and County of Honolulu (2000) 112 F. Supp. 2d 1041 (D. Ha. 2000)
Coleman v. AMTRAK (1995) U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7770, No. 94-4526 (E.D. Pa. 1995)
Rausch v. Pocatello Lumber Co., Inc. (2000) 135 Idaho 80, 84, 14 P.3d 1074, 1078