Legal Implications Of April Fools Day Stunt

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If it causes loss and damage to the other person and the court can grant that you who cracked that joke were negligent in your conduct, you would be liable to the tort of misrepresentation and so on and so forth.

The annual event called April Fools Day’ being celebrated world wide has left behind traces of memories. Most times, it is that of humour by jokes being played on friends and well-wishers.  But on some few remarkable  instances, the jokes have proven to exceed the limit leading to some damages on the one on whom such pranks are being played.

The Tide on Sunday sort the opinion of some legal experts on the legal implications of April Fool jokes.

O.C.J. Okocha –(SAN) and former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) had this to say.

The April Fool thing is a prank and practiced by people you call pranksters to crack jokes with their friends and associate. It is a joke and is not supposed to attract any legal consequences.  But if somebody can be said to have knowingly or negligently led another person to incure loss and damages, then that person is liable for tort (the tort of misrepresentation) and so on and so forth.

You see there must be that other elements, negligent of conduct on the part of the person pulling  that joke with friends and associates.  There must be loss and there must be damage caused to the person who acted on the basis of that misrepresentation made by that other person.  That is the legal implication of some times cracking an expensive joke.

If it causes loss and damage to the other person and the court can grant that you who cracked that joke were negligent in your conduct, you would be liable to the tort of misrepresentation and so on and so forth.

Foreseeable damages is what the law recognises. So if  there were not any foreseeable damage on the part of the person cracking jokes and the part of the person who acted on that joke, there can be no liability in law.

On my advice to members of the public, I will ask every member of the public to see it as a joke, as a prank. If somebody says to you ah! Aba is burning and you start rushing to Aba because you have brothers and sisters there and you incure loss and damage, certainly the person who said Aba is burning did not expect that in  the foreseeable

contemplation of  a reasonable man, you will start rushing to Aba because he cracked a joke on April Fools Day  that Aba is burning.

So the law recognises that everybody ought to act advisedly so that what the law does not foresee as reasonable, nobody will find any legal liability.  So members of the public are advised to enjoy the April Fools jokes and avoid incurring loss and damages based on an attempt by a prankster to pull a fast one on them.

Barrister Emmanuel Wilfred-Port Harcourt based legal Practitioner

April Fool is a relics of ourcolonial past.  That is the way I look at it.  We inherited the tradition from our colonial masters and it has never been legalised any day.  Any misinformation  will carry the full brunt of the law.  I don’t think there is any exception on say you are exempted from liability for telling a lie on April Fools Day.

Anybody playing a joke on April Fools Day should be careful of liability that may come out of it.  That is why sometimes, you control the extent of the legal implications. I’m not aware of any law which exempts one from liability for causing injuries to someone because it was done on April Fools Day.  I have not read any case in Nigeria that has caused any injuries to someone because it was done on April Fools Day. I have not read any case in Nigeria that has caused   any injury and was exempted.

I have had April Fool experience. It has always been there especially in the village. For instance “you tell a woman your daughter has returned with goodies and the woman would be excited only for you to say after some minutes oh!, it’s April Fool.

Even this morning, somebody played one on my wife. Oh! I ‘ve bought a brand new car and in the course of her excitement, the person calls back to say its April Fool! You see, he was able to control the impact so that she won’t get excited to the extent that she would incure injuries.  He  quickly called back to say, it’s April Fool before she could go beyond the normal joking limit. I think anybody playing that should also know that any injury caused by the jokes is not exempted by law.

My advice to members of the public like I said, April Fool is a relies of our colonial past, but it became so popular in Nigeria. I think that should be discarded.  We have a lot of jokes in Nigeria and a lot of clowns like the 1000 laughs and so forth. We can play their tapes and laugh over them.  I believe injuries have been caused to people but they never had the courage to take them up or pursue them legally.  So the public should beware of the legal implications.

Origin of April Fools’ Day –

The origin of April Fools Day is rather uncertain. However, the common belief holds that during the reformation of the calendar, the date for the New Year was moved from April 1st to January 1st.  During that time in history, there was no television or radio so words spread slowly.  There was those who choose to simply ignore the change and  those who merely forgot.  These people were considered “Fools” and practical jokes were played on them.  “All Fools’ Day” is practiced in many parts of the world with practical jokes an sending people on a fools errand.

A verson had it that April Fool dates from 1582, the year France adopted the Gregorian Calendar when New Year’s Day shifted from end of March, around the time of Vernal equinox to the first of January.  This became an annual tradition according this version of events, which ultimately spread throughout Europe.

In 1539, Flemish Poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1 in 1686. John Aubrey referred the holiday as Fools holy day.

In the eighteenth century, the festival was often posited as going back to the time of Noah.  According to an English newspaper article published in 1787, the day had its origin when Noah sent his dove off too early before the waters had receded. He was said to have done  this on the first day of the Hebrew month that corresponds with April.

In some countries like Nigeria, England the celebrates ends at 12 noon while in Scotland it is 48 hours long.

The English, Scotch and French introduced the custom to their colonies in America and it also  spread to black Africa countries from their colonial masters.

The revolutionary trend in global information dissemination through the mass media and of course, the G.S.M. has brought a twist in the game.  While one can use the GSM to confirm tricky information in the name of April Fool, several anonymous messages have been sent through wireless hand phones without the receiver being able to trace the sources.

 

Chris Oluoh