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Autopsy Finds Roach-Eating Contest Winner Choked on Bug Parts

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on November 30, 2012 9:44 AM

This may have been the last year for the roach-eating contest at the Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, Florida, after the winner died shortly after the event.

Edward Archbold ate 26 roaches to win the female ivory ball python offered as the grand prize, the Associated Press reports. But shortly after the contest ended, Archbold became ill and collapsed outside the pet store.

He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead when he arrived. The cause of death? Eating bugs, which puts the contest in danger.

Archbold died of asphyxia when roach body parts obstructed his airway, according to a report by the medical examiner's office. The tragedy was ruled an accident which means no one will be criminally liable for Archbold's death, The Miami Herald reports.

But that doesn't mean the store can't be liable in a civil case.

It's possible that Archbold's family could sue the store for wrongful death based on what happened. A wrongful death claim can succeed if the plaintiff shows that the victim's death was caused by negligence and that the plaintiff is suffering financial harm as a result of the death.

Of course, the pet store will likely defend itself if a lawsuit is brought, and in this case there is a particular personal injury theory that may help.

It's called assumption of risk.

Some activities are inherently dangerous and no matter how many precautions are taken, there is still a risk of injury. In those cases, the victim "assumes the risk" and generally can't bring a civil claim for injuries that are caused by those inherent dangers.

This doctrine most often applies to sports, but it can also be applied to other dangerous activities. Eating contests in general present many health risks, and eating roaches is probably even worse. Did we mention they were still alive at the time?

The store could still be held liable for not having appropriate medical personnel on hand. But that will be up to a court to decide, if a case is eventually filed.

About 30 people participated in the contest, eating live roaches to win a python, reports the AP. None of the other contestants had any ill effects.

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