Magic trick goes terribly wrong - who gets sued?

Taken from an ad:
>The blade is released, crashing down through the stocks,
>spectator’s neck, and out the bottom.
>Miraculously, the spectator is unharmed.

I don’t know how this trick works but if it failed and actually
did chop the spectator’s head off who gets sued?
The magician? The magic trick company? The arena/venue?
Would there be any criminal charges?
Does everybody else in the audience get their money back?
Would an audience member be able to sue for the emotional distress of witnessing an actual beheading?

No sane magic vendor would sell a widget that COULD malfunction in such a way, I would think. Particularly if the trick works the way I think it does.

I would imagine that the company that made the guillitone would be sued. Or whichever party had the deepest pockets. Follow the money.

Everyone would get sued by the victim’s relatives or estate.

Criminal charges would be likely.

Money back? I doubt too many people would push this, but if they did, they would probably get it.

Suing is possible for emotional distress, winning will be difficult unless they are family members.

A show like that and you want your money back?

On a more serious note, this site lists a number of magicians who have died performing the trick of catching a bullet. Not a lot of details, but there is mention of a book on the subject.

A student in England last year was killed at a medieval fair when a catapult hurled him too far (or not far enough) and he missed the net that was supposed to catch him. A Google search should find the news stories. There were lawsuits aplenty, if I recall correctly.

Isn’t is traditional in these sort of circumstances for the magician to laugh maniacally, throw a small device to the ground and vanish amid a puff of smoke? This being the case, how can he be sued?

Seriously: the trick of “sawing someone in half” has been performed for at least two hundred years, but to date, I have never heard of the trick going wrong, even when updated to include power tools, circular saws, chainsaws, and in Penn and Teller’s version, an industrial punch press.

Why? Because it is specifically arranged so it CAN’T.

Tricks DO go wrong, sometimes. The best case I can think of was the conjuror Chung Ling Soo (who was actually an American) when his bullet-catching trick went sour and one of his assistants accidentally shot him. Theoretically, this one shouldn’t have gone sour, either – the guns were specifically rigged in such a way that they should not have been able to fire – but Soo had been doing the maintenance himself for years, and over time, the breech blocks of the guns wore down in such a way as to allow the guns to actually discharge their chambers.

So, in this case, Soo himself was to blame. The guns were real, but he’d modified them. His modifications worked, too. It took years of wear and tear for them to malfunction.

Most tricks involving the appearance of bodily harm – the tri-sectional woman, guillotine tricks, the milk can escape, and the ever-popular sawing someone in half – are gimmicked in such a way that the trick can’t really go sour, short of a seriously freak accident… and I suspect that the magic vendor who sold the device or the plans would testify like hell to that effect.

And, of course, if the magician himself invented or altered the effect… he’d be the sole person responsible.

Note that this does not necessarily go for tricks involving animals. From what I hear, there are waivers that the venue gets to sign if someone’s going to do an animal trick, like Siegfried and Roy. And even then, the magicians themselves can be held responsible if an animal gets weird. Doug Henning quit working with tigers after one decided to investigate the audience in the middle of his act, one night in Las Vegas; he got mauled fairly well while keeping the critter busy, and the animal was restrained before anyone was seriously hurt except Henning.

From what I hear, Henning woke up in a hospital bed with Bob Hope cracking jokes at his bedside. Hope had been in the audience when the tiger went for them.

If laughter’s the best medicine, Henning should have been out of there in no time.


So, Soo sues Soo sui, sooth!.

Clearly it was a case of Sooicide.

And if anyone needs any more material for bad puns, his wife’s stage name was Sui Seen.


Oh – I should also point out that Henning TACKLED the tiger when it got interested in the audience. The tiger then lost interest in the audience and dealt with Henning, at least until the handlers were able to get the critter off him.

Whether he was doing so out of concern for the audience or terror of lawsuits is unrecorded.

Damned brave either way.

IANAM, and I do not know the particulars of any of these tricks. That said, I don’t think I can be accused of “spoiling” the tricks. But it seems very likely to me that all of the “dangerous” parts of the apparatus are removed altogether or replaced with “safe” materials. I’ve seen toy knives, for instance, that look reasonably close to the real thing (especially with just the right lighting, viewing angle, etc.), but where the blades are made of flexible rubber, and I don’t see why a guillotine blade couldn’t be made the same way. If they previously show the guillotine chopping a melon in half, or some such, then it may be that the melon was pre-rigged somehow, too, to fall apart at the contact of even a soft blade, or from some other stimulus timed to match the blade falling.