California Man Spends Nine Hours Trapped in Swing

Now this would make for an interesting tort lawsuit. A California man was rescued on Saturday after being stuck in a toddler’s swing in the park for nine hours. The man had bet his friends $100 that he could fit into the swing, lubricated himself with laundry detergent, and squeezed into the swing — only to be stuck. After trying unsuccessfully to free him, the friends decided to leave him as a joke.

His cries for help were eventually heard by a groundskeeper and the fire department cut the chains on the swing. The seat was then removed at the hospital with a cast saw.

There is a concept in torts that volunteer suffers no wrong, or volenti non fit injuria. There is also the principle in the United States of a “no duty to rescue.” Indeed, this doctrine was famously upheld in Yania v. Bigan, 397 Pa. 316, 155 A.2d 343 (1959) where a man watched another man drown without taking any efforts to assist him. Even though Bigan dared Yania to jump into the hole full of water, the court found that this made no difference since these taunts were “directed to an adult in full possession of all his mental faculties constitutes actionable negligence is not only without precedent but completely without merit.” On the rule itself, the Court wrote:

Lastly, it is urged that Bigan failed to take the necessary steps to rescue Yania from the water. The mere fact that Bigan saw Yania in a position of peril in the water imposed upon him no legal, although a moral, obligation or duty to go to his rescue unless Bigan was legally responsible, in whole or in part, for placing Yania in the perilous position: Restatement, Torts, § 314. Cf: Restatement, Torts, § 322. The language of this Court in Brown v. French, 104 Pa. 604, 607, 608, is apt: “If it appeared that the deceased, by his own carelessness, contributed in any degree to the accident which caused the loss of his life, the defendants ought not to have been held to answer for the consequences resulting from that accident. … He voluntarily placed himself in the way of danger, and his death was the result of his own act. … That his undertaking was an exceedingly reckless and dangerous one, the event proves, but there was no one to blame for it but himself. He had the right to try the experiment, obviously dangerous as it was, but then also upon him rested the consequences of that experiment, and upon no one else; he may have been, and probably was, ignorant of the risk which he was taking upon himself, or knowing it, and trusting to his own skill, he may have regarded it as easily superable. But in either case, the result of his ignorance, or of his mistake, must rest with himself – and cannot be charged to the defendants”. The complaint does not aver any facts which impose upon Bigan legal responsibility for placing Yania in the dangerous position in the water and, absent such legal responsibility, the law imposes on Bigan no duty of rescue.

Recognizing that the deceased Yania is entitled to the benefit of the presumption that he was exercising due care and extending to appellant the benefit of every well pleaded fact in this complaint and the fair inferences arising therefrom, yet we can reach but one conclusion: that Yania, a reasonable and prudent adult in full possession of all his mental faculties, undertook to perform an act which he knew or should have known was attended with more or less peril and it was the performance of that act and not any conduct upon Bigan’s part which caused his unfortunate death.

Under this standard the friends would be free of liability, though in many countries there is a duty to call police or render such low-cost aid.

Source: SFGate as first read on Reddit.

15 thoughts on “California Man Spends Nine Hours Trapped in Swing”

  1. What if Bigan dared Yania to jump into the water, and promised to help him if he got could not extract himself?

    Separate of any prior promise to help Yania, what if there were a rope at Bigan’s feet?

    What if Yania were intoxicated, and Bigan was not, and Bigan was able to talk Yania into jumping into the water?

  2. The swing sounds perfect for softening detainees through stress positions. “This woman guard will violate your space by lubricating you. Then we’ll suspend you by chains, turn off the heat, and play rock music, while that German Shepherd sits below your toes.”

    Could we ship a crate full over to Cuba?

  3. i’d say by the way his “friends” walked off and never bothered to check on him later, this is probably not the first time he’s done something like this.

  4. Here’s an angle I haven’t seen addressed: From the look of that swing, it might have prevented the man trapped from urinating. If he was unable to void for nine hours after a night of beer drinking (how unlikely is that?), he could have died of a burst bladder. How would that have changed liability?

  5. “taunts were “directed to an adult in full possession of all his mental faculties ” … now that’s funny

  6. Maybe being the parent of small children has affected me more than I thought — my first thought was that now the swing isn’t there for use by kids and so he should have to pay to replace it.

  7. They made a song about it “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” …

    Would assumption of the risk be a valid affirmative defense?

  8. It sounds like the guy was lubricated with more than detergent. That it took nine hours to be discovered would indicate that this began at the late evening hours as well. I also doubt that the playground is so deserted in the daylight hours, and the guy is fortunate that some little kids did not show up and make him even more miserable to complement his hangover..

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