Halloween – Keeping Premise Liability Lawsuits Away from Your Door
We’re not out to scare you, but if you are planning on inviting trick or treaters to your home later this month, you should know about your legal responsibility to maintain safe conditions on your property. Worry more about safety of kids and less about what kind of candy you are handing out! By having your walkway lit and your front lights on, you are inviting trick-or-treaters onto your property. So as a homeowner, you owe the trick or treaters a “reasonable level of care” to provide a safe environment. Even if you do not have scary decorations and music, you need to let your guests know about any potential hazards – loose pavement bricks, cracks in the walkway, etc. (Ideally, you would repair these hazards.) Think about all of the possible things that could go wrong. Do you have gopher holes in your yard that a kid may step into? Is the front door, porch and walkway well lit? Could a lit candle catch a costume on fire? Could pumpkin guts from a turned over pumpkin cause your neighbor’s kid to slip on your steps? Any of these could potentially lead to premise liability lawsuits.
We are not trying to take the fun out of Halloween, just be aware of and try to minimize the obvious dangers. Halloween is typically a high-traffic night when kids hopped up on sugar are dashing around the neighborhood trying to get to the next house as quickly as possible. Make sure you repair or warn of the obvious dangers around your home. When kids are involved, the homeowner is usually the one that is found legally liable when something goes wrong. It’s actually a good time to make sure that your homeowners’ insurance policy is up to date and contains ample coverage for these kinds of spooky incidents. You need to take every possible precaution to keep kids safe and to keep a premise liability case away from knocking on your door. Halloween is a unique night. It’s a once-a-year open house event where you are basically inviting strangers to enter your property. So this leaves you vulnerable to potential premise liability lawsuits. If something WERE to happen, the law focuses on whether or not the homeowner exposed visitors to an unreasonably dangerous condition without warning them about it. Have fun, but play it safe.