Last Wednesday, junior Declan Sullivan was recording Notre Dame football’s practice from the top of a hydraulic lift before he fell to his death. He was doing his job, videotaping practice from an aerial view so that the football players would later be able to see what they needed to correct before game day. Then a strong wind blew and knocked the lift over. The rest is history.
At this point, it is unclear who authorized Sullivan to go on the lift in lieu of the fact that there was turbulent weather. Any person of authority who permitted Sullivan to tape the practice from above will likely be named in a lawsuit. It is also almost certain that the University of Notre Dame will be named as a party in a civil suit, as it is vicariously liable for the actions of its employees, and has very deep pockets. The maker of the hydraulic lift may also be liable if it is proven that the machinery had some sort of defect, malfunction, or warranted that it could stand such strong wind gusts.
It is likely that in its defense, Defendants of a future lawsuit will say that Sullivan assumed the risk of using the lift on such a windy day and knew of the potential danger before going up on his own free-will. There also may be a claim that Sullivan was at least comparatively negligent; that he is at least partly to blame for his fall, and that the Defendants should not bare all of the liability.
Then there is an interesting evidentiary twist. Before the lift collapsed, Sullivan sent out the following Tweets on Twitter:
“Gust of wind up to 60mph well today will be fun at work… I guess I’ve lived long enough :-/.”
“Holy f*** holy f*** this is terrifying.”
There is no reason that the Tweets could be not used as evidence. In fact, it is a novel new use for Twitter, which has been a brilliant service for documenting other monumental events such as plane crashes and major riots in foreign countries. Twitter does not alter a person’s statement in any way, so I cannot see how a Tweet could be construed as hearsay.