It's the time of year when thrills, chills, and scares are all in good fun. But sometimes the frights go too far and cause injuries.
Last month a Michigan woman settled a lawsuit against a haunted house for $125,000. The woman suffered severe fractures to her left leg, a soft tissue injury to her back and spine and other injuries while touring the seasonal attraction called Erebus House in 2014. In the lawsuit, the woman said she was in a poorly lighted part of the haunted house when a moving wall knocked her down. She referred to the area within the haunted house attraction as dangerous and defective.
In the lawsuit, she claimed operation of the attraction “constituted both a defective and unsafe premise as well as a nuisance,” that “resulted in a large and unreasonable number of injuries to patrons.” The lawsuit went on to state that the employees were negligent in moving walls and the dim lighting created unsafe conditions “resulting in multiple injuries to (the woman) and its other patrons and invitees, constituting a nuisance.”
The haunted house, which is in its 17th year of operation, now has a disclaimer on its website stating the rules for admission, advising people with certain medical conditions not to enter. It also bans people who are intoxicated or who have certain physical limitations. Visitors also are banned from smoking, running, eating and drinking, and touching the actors, props or other customers.
The disclaimer advises that each ticket holder “voluntarily assumes all risks and dangers associated with participation in this attraction.” In addition, according to the disclaimer, ticket holders who enter the attraction agree to “release the operator, its parent corporation, affiliates, officers, directors and employees and landlord from any liability, harm, injury or death, cost or expense whatsoever that may arise directly or indirectly from attending this attraction or any of the attractions at this location.”
The woman in Michigan had multiple serious physical injuries caused by a potentially dangerous prop in the haunted house she toured. However, a man who was injured after being scared by an actor at a California haunted house did not fare as well in court.
Last year an appeals court ruled against the man who claimed he was unduly frightened -- and as a result injured -- by his haunted house experience. The court's justices said the operators of the haunted house cannot be held responsible for injuries caused by an “inherent risk” of the activity.
In 2011, the man and his friends toured The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park in San Diego. They had just passed what the man thought was the exit gate when a costumed actor wielding a prop chainsaw approached them. The man ran from the actor, fell and injured his wrist. In his lawsuit, the man said he feared for his safety when he saw the actor.
However, lawyers for The Haunted Trail pointed out that the website, where the man had purchased his ticket, showed pictures of actors holding chainsaws. In addition, an audiotape played for all visitors warned them against running.
The case was dismissed by the first judge who heard the case and the appeals court upheld that decision.
Regardless of whether it was intentional, if you or a loved one has been injured by an entertainment attraction or the staff, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.