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Don’t be a Fool on April Fool’s Day: When Pranks Go Too Far

Don’t be a Fool on April Fool’s Day: When Pranks Go Too Far

It's April Fool's Day but that doesn't mean you're immune from any liability

1st April 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

At LawPath we love a good prank as much as the next person. In fact, our Head of Content Jackie Olling treats April Fool’s as her favourite holiday (yes, we tried telling her that it’s not a holiday, but what are you gonna do) because she loves to prank people.

But in all seriousness, sometimes pranks do go a bit too far and result in some serious legal situations. Today, we’ll be looking at some high profile pranks that went a bit too far.

In Australia:

  • Prank Call to London Hospital asking about Duchess of Cambridge (Princess Kate)

This was a serious incident in 2012 where 2DayFM broadcast a phone call to the hospital in London where Princess Kate was being treated pretending to be the Queen & Prince Charles. The nurse who attended the call and transferred it through to the ward later committed suicide as a result of the hoax call. This caused international uproar against 2DayFM. The hosts were immediately taken off air. There was an inquiry by the Australian media watchdog Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) who reported that 2DayFM had breached the Australian commercial radio code of conduct by “broadcasting a statement of an identifiable person without her consent & that they had treated her in a highly demeaning or exploitative manner.”

  • Fake Terror Attacks in Melbourne (Jalal Brothers)

In 2016 the Jalals, a YouTube channel comprised of 3 young Muslims of Kurdish decent uploaded a prank bombing video. It showed the 3 dressed up in traditional Arab attire with fake beards tossing a suspicious looking bag into public places. Donut shops, through car windows, open doors on lifts, toilet cubicles to name a few and bolting once they had placed the bag. The part that sparked the most outrage was when they were driving in a 4WD at night and lifted an AK-47 rifle through the window taking aim at a man and his young daughter using a payphone while playing the sound of gunshots through their speakers. Although these videos have achieved their intention of becoming viral it caused them to be taken into custody and appear in front of court by the counter-terrorism police.

Jokes amongst your mates probably won’t get you into any serious trouble, the idea of lawsuits never take a holiday. Not even if it’s April Fool’s Day (definitely not a holiday). Some common cases globally where a practical joke didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to.

  • You’ve won – not!

Surprisingly, in the United States they don’t seem to learn from other people’s mistakes.

  1. Competitions often play on words for their prize giveaways. One listener thought she had won a new Hummer but when she showed up it was just a toy replica. She turned the tables & sued the station for US$60,000, the cost of a new Hummer. Another similar instance was when a contest was to win “100 grand”. Turns out the “100 grand” was just a 100 grand candy bar. She sued the station for intending to “cheat, defraud & play a malicious joke.”
  2. A Hooters waitress won the company’s beer sale contest with a prize of a new Toyota. However, she was presented with a ‘Toy Yoda,’ a doll from the Star Wars movies. She quit her job & sued the parent company for breach of contract & fraudulent misrepresentation. Eventually, it was settled out of court and the client could now “pick whatever type of Toyota she wants.”

Of course, this isn’t intended to scare people from playing practical jokes but be wary of the consequences. Otherwise, April Fool’s Day could become a contender for Most Expensive Holiday along with Christmas or Valentine’s Day. 🙂

If you’ve been the subject of a prank that went too far speak to a lawyer on LawPath’s directory.

Unsure where to start? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

Tom Willis