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What are you going to do, sewer? | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, May 13, 2022 @ 2:33 PM | By Marcel Strigberger

Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
News flash. Lady falls down outhouse hole. Yep.

A woman visiting the Olympic National Forest northwest of Seattle was using her cell phone while in the John when unfortunately it fell into the outhouse pit. She tried using a leash to retrieve it.

When this did not work she tethered the leash to herself and while bending over she fell down the hatch. I guess she located her cellphone eventually as she used it to call 911, resulting in the firefighters rescuing her. I would say this event adds a new dimension to the phrase, “missing in action.” With this experience she probably had a good idea what Jonah went through. I’d say I would rather choose the whale.

I have no information on whether the lady plans to bring an action for damages. After all, unlike Lewis Carroll’s Alice, this woman did not exactly end up in Wonderland. I don’t think in her state after being rescued, the Mad Hatter would have invited her to his tea party.

If she does decide to start an action, I see a number of parties that might be added as defendants.

Firstly of course there is the park authority. After all it maintained on its grounds a demon WC, a people eating potty, a little loo of horrors. This place was not your usual “comfort station.” A judge or jury would have no problems concluding this incident was reasonably foreseeable.

Another defendant naturally would be the outhouse company. I don’t know the outfit’s name, but it would not surprise me if the structure was manufactured in Loch Ness.

Then of course I see liability on the manufacturer of the leash. How was the woman supposed to know it would not support her body while fishing around for her mobile? Where was the logical and expected caution on the leash? There should clearly have been some heads up noting: “WARNING: not to be used around your person when attempting to retrieve your mobile phone from an outhouse hole.” As a result of the company’s neglect in doing so, the poor woman ended up anything but heads up.

Any more possible defendants? How about the cellphone company? It knew or should have known that mobile users commonly engage in using these devices while doing their business. That’s part and parcel of nature’s call.

I have heard of talking toilets in Japan. Surely the mobile manufacturers can install some program whereby the cellphone if it falls down the can tells its owner something like, “I wouldn’t come down here if I was you.” 

But this lady’s cellphone contained no such warning. Should see sue the manufacturer? My view is yes unless the device was an Apple. My legal opinion is not in any way influenced by the fact that I own a few Apple shares. And remember on the plus side her phone did come through and deliver when she called 911. Not liable.

And I am actually thinking about that 911 call she made. I don’t know how the conversation went but I would not have wanted to be in that lady’s shoes when the 911 receptionist asked, “And what is your exact location?” For that matter I would not have wanted to be in her shoes even after she surfaced.

And if this case does go to court, the plaintiff’s lawyers should have no difficulty selecting a non-biased fair jury. They just have to ask each prospective juror a smart question or two such as, “Will you be objective in deciding on a case where a nice innocent lady visits a national park and ends up falling into the Bermuda Triangle outhouse?”

I suggest the lady makes a quick decision soon on suing. No sense in just sitting on it.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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