A case in England shows that Torts exams are not so fanciful after all. Peter Wallace, 24, was returning on a train with fellow Hiberinian soccer fans — many of who were dressed in costumes (which the English call “fancy dress.”) One man was dressed as a sheep and Wallace thought it was funny to constantly flick his lighter near the cotton balls covering his body — until he burst into flames. Friends then made the matter worse by trying to douse the flames but throwing alcohol on the flaming man-sheep. Even worse, the victim Aberdeen supporter Arjuna Rabindranath, 24, is an Aberdeen soccer fan.
Rabindranath’s costume was composed of a white tracksuit and cotton wool.
Wallace is the heir to a large farm estate and agreed to pay damages to the victim, who experienced extensive burns.
What is fascinating is the causation issue. Here, Wallace clearly caused the initial injury which was then made worse by the world’ most dim-witted rescue attempt in the use of alcohol to douse a fire. In the United States, the original tortfeasor is liable for such injuries causes by negligent rescues. Indeed, he is liable for injured rescuers. The rescuers can also be sued in most states. However, many areas of Europe have good samaritan laws protecting such rescuers.
Notably, Wallace had a previous football-related conviction which was dealt with by a fine. In this latest case, he agreed to pay 25,000 in compensation.
We have previously seen torts involving the use of cotton balls to transform people into sheep.
In Ferlito v. Johnson & Johnson, 771 F. Supp. 196, the facts seems quite analogous:
Plaintiffs Susan and Frank Ferlito, husband and wife, attended a Halloween party in 1984 dressed as Mary (Mrs. Ferlito) and her little lamb (Mr. Ferlito). Mrs. Ferlito had constructed a lamb costume for her husband by gluing cotton batting manufactured by defendant Johnson & Johnson Products (“JJP”) to a suit of long underwear. She had also used defendant’s product to fashion a headpiece, complete with ears. The costume covered Mr. Ferlito from his head to his ankles, except for his face and hands, which were blackened with Halloween paint. At the party Mr. Ferlito attempted to light his cigarette by using a butane lighter. The flame passed close to his left arm, and the cotton batting on his left sleeve ignited. Plaintiffs sued defendant for injuries they suffered from burns which covered approximately one-third of Mr. Ferlito’s body.
The actual settlement in this case is quite low by U.S. standards.