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Are haunted houses liable for personal injury?

Haunted house litigation isn’t exactly a bustling area of law

To your left is a bloody skeleton. To your right is a gnome whose eyes light up. Straight ahead is darkness. You knew haunted houses are supposed to be scary, but this is a bit much. You want to leave, so you turn around to go the way you came. But, when you finally start to see the light, a vampire jumps into the path in front of you! You fall to the ground, clutching your chest. It’s a heart attack.

So tell me: Is the haunted house liable for your medical bills?

Oddly enough, according to the Law Blog at the New York Times, this area of law is still wholly unclear. That’s because, in simple terms, nobody’s ever really tried.

“They all come of their own free will,” Stephen Hummel of America Haunts told the Law Blog. “And they want to be scared, so complaining wouldn’t make sense.”

On its website, America Haunts estimates that there are more than 1,200 haunted attractions that charge admission during the Halloween season each year, while an additional more than 300 amusement facilities (theme parks and the like) that have Halloween-specific attractions. When added to the smaller, free or temporary haunted houses springing up across the country over the past week, it’s almost shocking that none of them have ever been embroiled in some sort of major litigation.

According to insurance lawyer Randy J. Maniloff with White and Williams LLP in Philadelphia, who spoke with the Law Blog, the only cases he could find regarding haunted house litigation were all from the Louisiana Court of Appeal. And in each of those cases, the court ruled in favor of the haunted house.

That doesn’t mean, however, that haunted houses are completely free of potential litigation. While scaring people is the name of the game, haunted houses (especially temporary ones) still need to adhere to safety codes and make sure all employees are following established laws while at the haunted house.

 

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Contributing Author

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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