If we were Miss Colombia …

If we were Miss Colombia (the beautiful and talented Ariadna Gutierrez), we would consider consulting with a reputable attorney right now. You see, in our view, there is a high probability that the Miss Universe Organization, and maybe even FOX TV, might be vicariously liable for Steve Harvey’s egregious gaffe when he mistakenly crowned Ms Gutierrez the winner of the Miss Universe pageant, depending on whether the host is classified as an “employee” or an “independent contractor” of the pageant. One possible legal theory of liability might be the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Even if Mr Harvey’s mistake was an honest one (and even if he is deemed to be a contractor and not an employee), we could still argue that the person who designed the card announcing the winners did so in a negligent manner–that is, in a manner likely to result in error. At the same time, however, Miss Colombia’s legal options might be severely limited if she agreed in advance to waive the legal liability of the Miss Universe Organization or of FOX TV … As such, we would want to know what type of agreements the contestants of Miss Universe are required to sign in order to participate in the pageant and whether these contracts contain a forum selection clause, an arbitration clause, or a limitation of liability clause. If so, she should consider suing in her native Colombia …

… which brings us to our last (but most important) point, a point of civil procedure: choice of forum, or where should Miss Colombia sue? Since the Miss Universe pageant was broadcast nationwide (and presumably around the world), Miss Universe might have a great deal of flexibility in deciding where to bring her lawsuit under the minimum contacts test (again, we would need to see the contestants’ contracts to know for sure). But if she is going to sue, she better hurry. Cases based on a tort theory of liability (like negligent infliction of emotional distress) generally must be brought within one or two years of the date of injury, depending on which State the tort occurred in; otherwise, they are barred by the statute of limitations.

Sue me!

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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4 Responses to If we were Miss Colombia …

  1. orlandoimg says:

    Is Miss Philipine the person with real damages, Her moment to shine was shattered by the error, she lost the very and special moment of walking with the crown. However, I have not heard of a first finalist that was able to enjoy the actual crowning, walk and publicity of the legitimate Miss Universe

  2. Luanne says:

    I agree with you within the limitations of my knowledge of law, but I also agree with orlandoimg that Miss Philippines was really screwed over. She is the legit winner and the whole thing was ruined for her in an EMOTIONAL sense. Both those young ladies really had a terrible thing happen to them.

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