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Could Fake Machete Attack at Lawrence Feast Lead to Lawsuit?

What do you expect to happen at the Feast of the Three Saints in Lawrence? There's food, lots of delicious food. And there's music, some loud music. But would you expect a stabbing, or even a fake one at that?

That's what feast-goers witnessed when three men staged a fake machete assault in front of thousands of people Saturday, according to the Boston Herald. One of the men was dressed in a black trench coat and held a machete covered in fake blood after he pantomimed an attack on the other men. After being arrested, the men claimed they were filming a movie.

While the men were arrested for disturbing the peace and other crimes, it seems like audience members could have a claim against them for intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED").

IIED occurs when a person does something that is extreme or outrageous that intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress.

For an IIED case to succeed, the action must truly be extreme or outrageous. This means that the action can't just be offensive or gross, it must exceed all bounds of decency. For example, showing a graphic picture of a car wreck and convincing a person it was her child in the accident when the child is actually safe would likely be considered extreme and outrageous.

In the fake machete attack, people witnessed what they thought to be one man killing another. It is debatable, as always, whether or not this rises to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct.

The other issue with an IIED case is that the fake attackers would need to have acted intentionally or recklessly. Since they were filming the event, it is unlikely that its purpose was to shock fest-goers. However, it certainly would have been foolish to think that people seeing the fake violence would not be affected by it.

Of course, there can be no IIED claim if there was no harm. While emotional distress is a valid injury, the harm must be severe to recover under IIED. If a spectator who saw the attack began to have night terrors and insomnia because of the fake attack, she could potentially have an injury severe enough to bring an IIED claim.

If you think that you were injured by someone's extreme or outrageous behavior, it would be worthwhile to speak with a local personal injury lawyer to see if you have a case worth pursuing.

So the next time you're thinking of filming a fake machete attack like the one at the Feast of the Three Saints in Lawrence, it would probably be wise to make sure that everyone around knows what's going on so you don't find yourself arrested or sued.

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