Lia Fazzone at the Defense Zzone (clever blog name, eh?) reports on Jeb Corliss’ lawsuit against the Empire State Building. Corliss was charged with reckless endangerment for his attempted BASE jump from the building, but managed to escape liability. See BASE Jumping and the Law.
The Empire State Building sued Corliss in civil court, where he prevailed again. Now Corliss is on the attack — suing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The guards handcuffed him to the building. Had his chute deployed, the force would have torn him to shreds.
Corliss said he would have had no argument with the owners of the building or the guards if they had grabbed him before he climbed over the fence. “If they had gotten me before I got over the bars, OK, more power to them — you did your job,” he said. “But once I got over the suicide bars, their right to grab onto me ended.” (source)
He might have a moral point, but I don’t see the basis for liability. He claims that since the guards put him in danger, he should be compensated for the emotional distress. My guess is that a jury would laugh. If your raison d’être is hurling yourself off of buildings, and you hosted Stunt Junkies, I don’t think a jury is going to buy the story that you are emotionally scarred from a near death experience. But, this is a little bit out of my area of expertise. Lets all ask Attorney Turkewitz over at the New York Personal Injury Law Blog chime in on this point!
Corliss’ defamation suit is probably dead in the water.
[He claims] that the building’s owners defamed him by continuing to claim his actions were dangerous and illegal even after he was cleared of wrongdoing. (source)
Dude… you tried to jump off the Empire State Building. I understand that it isn’t as dangerous as most non-skydivers may think. Nevertheless, anyone who says that BASE Jumping is not dangerous is not going to be oozing with credibility. Illegal? Well, it may not have been illegal, but I don’t think that the Empire State Building will face defamation liability based on such a hair-splitting theory. Mr. Corliss is not the only BASE jumper to be charged with reckless endangerment. He is the only one that managed to convince a judge to let him off the hook. See BASE Jumping and the Law.
Despite the doomed nature of his civil suit, I do think he makes a good point about the guards’ conduct. These flunkies should be fired. I know that $10 per hour plus a badge doesn’t necessarily mean that the guy magically grows a brain, but cuffing Corliss to the building was really stupid, even for a rent-a-cop. One guard cut Corliss’ parachute harness off of him when he was informed of the danger, so that guy should keep his job. But whoever made the decision that it was more important to enforce the rules than respect Mr. Corliss’ life needs to find a new line of work with a lot less authoritah.