Behind the Legal 8-Ball

Magic 8 Ball
Judge Dan Hinde

The following letter was recently sent to the Chief Legal Counsel of Mattel, Inc.

Dear Sir/Madam;

I am a New York based attorney with over 30 years of experience in corporate liability.

Recently, for her 13th birthday, my daughter was gifted one of your products, a Magic 8 Ball.

Upon inspecting the novelty item, I was stunned to see that it has changed little since its introduction in 1946. Most notable, the 10 positive, five negative, and five vague answers are the same.

The world of litigation has changed greatly in the past 60 years, and your failure to recognize this and modify Magic 8 Ball answers accordingly, has opened up your corporation to enormous financial exposure.

When used properly, the ball encourages users to pose “Yes” or “No” questions. This can be quite problematic.

Hypothetically, if my daughter asks, “Does Bobby like me?” and the Ball replies “Without a doubt,” that answer creates a heightened expectation in her young, impressionable mind. If the Ball is incorrect, and Bobby has no romantic interest whatsoever in my daughter, the amount of emotional damage inflicted upon her as her dreams are crushed could be incalculable. (Though I’m sure some enterprising attorney could come up with a number.)

Another relevant question of the day might be “Will I get covid?” Any answer the ball provides here, from “It is decidedly so” to “Reply hazy, try again,” would be a clear violation of current HIPAA laws, with potentially fatal legal implications for your organization.

“It is certain,” “Very doubtful,” “My sources say no” and many of the other current answers in the Magic 8 Ball’s repertoire are equally problematic.

With your permission, may I suggest some operational modifications.

Every time the ball is initially engaged, a message should appear advising the user that continued shaking of the product acknowledges the user’s consent to the Magic 8 Ball’s Terms and Conditions. This is not bulletproof litigation protection, but would you most likely prevail in a lawsuit? Signs point to yes.

Assuming the user’s consent, the second message should be devoted to matters of privacy: “To continue, shake the Magic 8 Ball to correspond with the one-time passcode just texted to you via your Ouija Board (sold separately).”

Now the fun can begin! It is crucial any answer the ball provides be indistinct enough to be open to a multitude of interpretations. Current vague answers, such as “Reply hazy, ask again,” are in the right direction. Others, such as, “Better not tell you now” implies a willful withholding of crucial information by the ball and could land your corporation behind the legal eight-ball. (No relation.)

Answers that would offer legal protection and be more in keeping with the vernacular of the times include: “Hmm, that’s more of a Google question,” “Whatever, boomer” and “#WhoGivesaShit.”

I hope you have found this letter helpful, though, when I asked that very question to the Magic 8 Ball, it replied, “Don’t count on it.”

Waldorf T. Flywheel
Attorney at Law

John Ficarra

John Ficarra was the long time editor of MAD Magazine. He retired in 2018, but has continued to write humorous essays for The New Yorker, the Washington Post, Air Mail Newsletter and many other publications.

Comments 1

  1. Lorrie Taylor says:

    I have a Jackson and Kelly law firm pllc 8 ball that I found at open food and close shelter long years ago I still have it just wondering if it’s worth a little something now today

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