Tours of haunted houses are supposed to be thrilling. Being shocked by gory scenes or spooky apparitions is all part of the experience. But these experiences aren’t supposed to cause real danger. When they do, and someone is injured, the operators and promoters of the haunted house may face legal liability in real life.
That’s what happened to a Michigan woman who suffered serious injuries in 2014. According to The Oakland Press, the plaintiff was knocked to the ground when a moving wall suddenly knocked her down in a poorly lit aisle. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff suffered severe fractures to her leg, as well as a soft tissue injury to her back and spine, lacerations, and bruising.
A personal injury lawsuit she filed against the company was recently settled for $125,000. The owner of the operation declined to comment, except to release a brief statement insisting the operation is safe and has been in business for many years.
Property owners and operators have a responsibility to use reasonable care in making sure those they invite onto the property are not in real danger. The highest duty of care is owed to those invited onto the property for the enrichment of the property owner or controller. Although there is no bright line rule for what exactly this means, there is some case law that acts as a guide.
First, we know that when it comes to business invitees, property owners have a duty not just to avoid creating hazards and to warn about them, but also to routinely inspect the site for possible dangers and to address those issues promptly. This is especially true in a location that is poorly lit, where people are panicked, and where there may be liquids spilled onto the floor or debris knocked into walkways.
Two years ago in South Carolina, a 24-year-old woman was injured during a haunted house tour of Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. The company responsible for running the operation reported an actor (most of whom are independent contractors) jumped out from behind a vertically situated steel beam, knocking the beam over and striking her in the head. She reportedly suffered a concussion and required stitches.
The company temporarily closed the attraction and properly secured the beam. The property owner then released a statement characterizing the incident as “unfortunate” and insisting the site is inspected each day. In such a situation, questions could be raised about whether a daily inspection is adequate.
An increasing number of haunted houses are requiring patrons to sign liability waivers to release the company in the event of negligence resulting in personal injury – the exact sort of claim for which you might otherwise be able to sue for damages. In some cases, such disclaimers and releases are found in fine print on the back of the ticket and don’t require an actual signature from the customer to be enforced.
However, these kinds of general disclaimers and releases don’t insulate companies in every situation. This was true in the Michigan case, since we know a waiver existed, and yet the company still found it in its best interest to settle the case before trial.
If you have been injured in North Carolina or South Carolina, we can help you determine whether you are likely to prevail in a claim for damages.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Injury lawsuit involving Pontiac’s Erebus haunted house settled for $125K, Sept. 16, 2016, By John Turk, The Oakland Press
More Blog Entries:
NHTSA: Fewer Children Using Booster Seats in 2015, Oct. 13, 2016, Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyer Blog