He was in the balloon and then he wasn’t and now it may have all been a hoax.
The family of Falcon Heene is making the media rounds this morning to explain the boy’s “we did it for show” comment.
If it was a hoax, the first question — besides why would someone ever think such a thing was a good idea — is what sort of liabilities have the Heene family opened themselves up to?
Yesterday, when it was still just an innocent boy-trapped-in-flying-balloon story, the Law and More blog (via Above The Law) noted, “Lawyers worth their salt as well as alert child advocates have to be asking: Was that balloon tethered in the backyard of Richard Heene an attractive nuisance?”
And that’s true. And, a balloon that can fly 10,000 feet held down by a rope is attractive, to say the least, to a 6-year-old. But since no one was hurt and it would have been the boy (or the boy via a boring insurance subrogation claim) suing his own parents, it’s now far fetched and we can probably toss the nuisance tort.
The sheriff’s department is apparently looking into the claim — who knows if an actual missing persons report was filed, but if the parents knew the boy was not in the balloon, they certainly lied to law enforcement when they suggested he might be in the balloon.
But, criminal charges aside, the real liability the parents should be concerned about in the event it was a hoax will be all the costs associated with the “rescue.” And the law enforcement costs would just be the tip of the iceberg.
There’s the news helicopter the father apparently requested track the balloon. There’s the fact that planes from the Denver airport didn’t take off for at least a short period of time. There’s the man who risked injury running across the sand to catch the balloon’s tether as it descended back to earth.
OK, probably not the last one, but the rest is true.
If we really want to jump into a guessing game, maybe there are contract claims as well. Was the family the sole owner of the ballon? Did they have investors to whom the owed a responsibility to not damage the invention (assuming it was a) damaged and b) their invention). Or perhaps they breached the contract by revealing it to the world too soon? You can also bet that any insurance claim made on the balloon will be heavily investigated.
It could of course go on forever. And, if this was all for attention, it’s likely going to cost the family a whole lot more than the loss of any hoped-for reality show.
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