Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Outbreak of Fun!

In 2009, an aspiring model named Denise Underhill arrived at the Playboy mansion for a pictorial with staff photographers. Like any respectable geriatric bachelor pad, the mansion is equipped with a large outdoor trampoline in case the need should arise for calisthenics. In a moment of inspiration, the photographer asked Miss Underhill if she would mind jumping up and down on the trampoline whilst he snapped pictures of her. She agreed and everything went according to plan until she landed wrong and allegedly tore the “meniscus in her right knee.”

According to Miss Underhill, despite the obvious severity of her injury the Playboy staff provided her with only a set of crutches and sent her on her merry way. The knee later required surgery and the model subsequently filed a lawsuit against Playboy requesting more than $25,000 in damages and medical expenses. In the paperwork, she cites the lack of “warning signs posted ... as to the dangers posed by the use of the equipment.” Thus far neither Hefner nor Playboy has publicly commented on the lawsuit.

I imagine that this dispute would be difficult to resolve. On the one hand, one would assume trampoline-jumping to be an innate skill honed in adolescence, but on the other hand one would expect a mansion that houses a sexually-active 85 year-old to have more medical supplies on hand than a set of used crutches. I guess there could be some legal merit to the lack of cautionary signage concerning the trampoline, but I would assume that nothing the kills the buzz of nude trampoline jumping like a comprehensive set of release forms.

As dangerous as Hefner’s exercise apparatus is, it appears that the real health risks are to be found elsewhere on the estate. Earlier this year the estate hosted a shindig for DOMAINFest, a conference consisting of people who make their living by buying, selling, and parking Internet domain names. In other words, a large number of socially-awkward technology enthusiasts were able to fulfill their fantasy of attending a party at the Playboy Mansion.

Unfortunately, a couple hundred of the attendees began suffering from fever, vomiting, and diarrhea the following day. The outbreak of symptoms was widespread enough that Los Angeles health officials launched a two month investigation that concluded that the party-goers had contracted Legionnaires' disease, a sometimes fatal bacterial infection that often leads to pneumonia. The source was eventually identified as the mansion’s famed “hot-tub grotto”, a body of water with a higher fluid-exchange rate than the Panama Canal.

Playboy officials initially denied any attempt to link the outbreak to the mansion, but have since taken steps to ensure the grotto’s sanitary integrity. While it is true that a proper mixture of anti-bacterial chemicals has been show to eliminate the presence of Legionnaires' disease in whirlpools and hot tubs, I also had MTV in the late 1990’s and realize that no amount of bleach and chlorine could get me into a small body of water that Fred Durst inhabited for two solid days. The CDC probably uses the Playboy Mansion to locate Los Angeles on a pathogen outbreak map because of all the push pins located there.

Legally speaking, I believe the young model with the knee injury deserved more than a set of crutches and cab fare, but to be fair she still managed to leave the mansion with more than most budding coeds who visit there. I would also have to believe that she signed some sort of release in order to participate in the photo session in case she slipped on some body butter or was sideswiped by Hef’s power chair. I say reimburse the girl for the corrective surgery (if it was legit) and offer her a slot on the next “Girls of Civil Litigation” DVD.

While no one from the “Legionnaires' grotto” incident has filed suite yet, I am sure that it is only a matter of time. I suppose the attendees were entitled to a reasonable expectation of sanitation in the mansion hot-tub and that would be the basis for awarding punitive damages. However, if everyone who found themselves nauseated and suffered from a low-grade fever after a visit to the grotto won a monetary judgment, the magazine would have gone bankrupt around 1973.

In either case, I do agree that proper signage is in order. I have taken the liberty of penning a rough draft:

WARNING! Those who enter these grounds often do so intoxicated by visions of fast-tracked stardom or boyhood carnal fantasies only to leave burdened with regret and self-loathing. Neither Playboy Enterprises nor the mansion staff is responsible for injuries sustained while utilizing the grotto, trampoline, cutting torch, licorice slide, tandem pogo-stick or industrial Jell-O cannon. Any wounds (physical or otherwise) sustained during your visit to the mansion will be treated extemporaneously by unqualified staff members and publicly denied at a later date. Prophylactics, penicillin, and a brochure entitled “Is it still consensual if I didn’t use my real first name?” are available at guest services. Also, we have reason to believe that Sean Penn soiled himself while swimming last August so utilize the pool at your own risk.

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