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OFF BEAT: Man locked in bathroom on prank can't sue for false imprisonment


An employee who may have expected to be locked in a cruise ship lavatory in a prank by his fellow employees cannot sue for false imprisonment, an appeals court has ruled in upholding a jury’s finding in the case.

According to last week’s decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Steven A. Slasinski and Karen L. Slasinski vs. Confirma Inc. and Dan Bickford, Ward Sparacio and Dave Wolfe, Mr. Slasinski, a regional sales manager for Bellevue, Wash.-based Confirma Inc. attended a work-related dinner on a cruise ship in Bellevue on July 25, 2007.

Near the end of the cruise but before the boat docked, Mr. Slasinski saw a colleague, Kris Daw, enter the lavatory and get locked in by another employee, Dan Bickford. Mr. Daw was released a few minutes later “to the laughter of those standing nearby,” according to the ruling.

Mr. Slasinski then entered the lavatory himself and also was locked inside. He was trapped inside for 20 to 25 minutes and finally was released by the boat’s crew. In 2008, a jury ruled against Mr. Slasinski’s false imprisonment charge and his wife’s charge of loss of consortium. The district court subsequently denied the Slasinskis’ motion for a new trial.

In affirming the district court ruling, the appeals court said that while the evidence could support Mr. Slasinski's assertion that he was confined against his will, it “does not necessarily mean, however, that conclusions to the contrary are unreasonable.”

A jury “could easily have found that Mr. Slasinski entered the lavatory knowing he would be locked inside as part of the prank and thus initially consented to the confinement,” the appeals court panel ruled unanimously.

Moreover, said the court, Mr. Slasinski did not seek help initially. “A reasonable jury could conclude, therefore, that any confinement Mr. Slasinski experienced began with his consent, and only after the passage of time became against his will,” the appeals court said.