Empire State Building v. Jeb Corliss


If the name Jeb Corliss doesn’t ring a bell, he is the guy who got busted trying to parachute off the Empire State Building in July 2006. He was caught right away and arrested. The reckless endangerment charge was dismissed (currently on appeal), and he now brings an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. For background, see Marc Randazza’s two posts on the subject:
Jeb Corliss Sues Empire State Building and Jeb Corliss Lawsuit Update (with video).

Jeb Corliss, it seems, is a moron of the first degree. Either that or he is such a publicity hound that he knows bringing a stupid lawsuit will simply bring him more publicity, and any publicity is good publicity.

The essence of his argument seems to be that he is an experienced BASE jumper and knows what he is doing and therefore won’t get killed doing it and won’t land in traffic. Well jolly good for all that.

But he isn’t the only one in the City of New York, and there just might be a few people walking down below near this spectacular landmark building that are stunned at the sight of a man parachuting down into one of the busiest places in Manhattan, and that they just might take their eyes off the taxis, busses and other vehicles flying by as they cross the street. Worse yet, he could be seen by someone actually driving one of those vehicles who would be, and this isn’t exactly a surprise, severely distracted.

Now I once saw a guy parachute unexpectedly into a high profile event, so I have a perspective on ground reactions to such a thing: In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series at Shea Stadium, Michael Sergio floated down out of the sky onto the field. And the crowd, myself included, was pointing and roaring while he was still hundreds of feet off the ground. Let’s just say he had everyone’s absolute and undivided attention.

Great stunt. Now picture that with moving vehicles on the street below. All of a sudden, not such a great stunt. Dumb stunt. Dangerous stunt. The kind of stunt where pedestrians can get inadvertently run down by large moving vehicles.

This clown doesn’t want me on the jury regarding his lawsuit. In my view, the police and security were well within their rights to do most anything humanly possible to stop him from creating a dangerous condition on the ground. The idea that they demonstrated “extreme and outrageous conduct,” as required under New York law to bring a suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress, will most surely fail. (And the idea that a BASE jumper actually suffered emotional distress from the experience is too stupid to be believed.)

He’s suing for the intentional infliction of emotional distress after planning this stunt, he says, for two years. Frankly, I think the guards that stopped him have a better claim against him.

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