Halloween is a time we associate with kids trick or treating, costumes and good natured mischief. But have you ever stopped to think about where it all came from?The word “Halloween” is actually a shortened form of “All Hallows’ Evening” or “All Hallows’ Eve”. It is the night before the All Saints day which is when the Catholic church remembers and honors its religious, or most “hallow” saints. It also traces its roots back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic Culture and a preparation for the coming winter. The Gaels believed that on October 31, a time when we are changing from one season to another, the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped, and the deceased could on this day come back and wreak havoc or play mischief on the living. People would often wear masks or costumes during this feast to try to trick the spirits coming over from the other side. There are historical accounts of the ancient Celts dressing up in ghoulish outfits and parading out of town in the hopes of leading the wandering spirits away.
Given Halloween’s association with mischief and pranks, its no surprise that this holiday has seen its share of lawsuits. We are a Plaintiff’s law firm representing people with legitimate injury claims, but we had to do a double take on some of these lawsuits. Below is a list of some of our favorite Halloween Lawsuits categorized by the particular brand of idiocy:
- So what did you think was going to happen?Mays v. Grenta Athletic Boosters, Inc. (1996) Ms. Mays became frightened in a haunted house when an employee jumped out at her. She turned around and ran right into a cinderblock and broke her nose. The court found that the haunted house had no duty to protect Ms. Mays from her own frightened reaction since that is exactly why she went to the haunted house in the first place. See also the case of Durmon v. Billings (2004) in which the Plaintiff was in a corn maze when she encountered an employee dressed up as Jason, complete with hockey mask and running chain saw, tried to run and broke her leg.
- Just a bad idea.Ferlito v. Johnson & Johnson. The Plaintiff and his wife went to a costume party dressed up as Little Bo Peep and her sheep. The husband had covered himself from head to toe in cotton balls and then thought it would be a good idea to smoke a cigarette. In their suit the Ferlitos argued that J&J failed to warn them that the cotton balls were flammable. That is exactly why you don’t see more sheep smoking.
- If the shoe fits…Perper v. Forum Novelties (2010). Sherri Perper, a 56 year old woman living in Queens, NY bought a pair of oversized clown shoes she was going to wear to a party in 2008. She tripped, fell and hurt herself and sued the seller of the shoes.
- Kids will be KidsIn 2013 in Aiken, South Carolina a group of children where trick or treating when the homeowner jokingly threatened to take away their candy if they didn’t have a good trick. A 10 year old in costume pulled out a 9mm handgun that belonged to his grandfather in order to clarify who was the rightful owner of the candy in his bag. His brother who was with him also had a handgun on his person. Whatever happened to a good old knock knock joke?
- Mistaken IdentityGrant v. Grant (2012). The Grant family from Pennsylvania was enjoying a Halloween bonfire when Janet Grant told her son to fetch the shot gun and get rid of the skunk she had just spotted. Janet shined a flashlight on the animal while her son shot it. They then realized it was their cousin dressed up in a black and white costume. Fortunately the Grant boy was a bad shot and the cousin suffered only minor injuries.
While these lawsuits may sound crazy it’s important to remember that somebody really did get hurt. Here are some of our tips on how to avoid getting spooked by a lawyer on Halloween:
- Make sure your driveway and sidewalk are well lit and do not have any debris or holes that could cause someone to fall.
- When putting out decorative lights, be careful with real candles. A candle in a Jack-o-Lantern is one thing. A candle in a decorative paper bag is something completely different. Use electric flickering lights that mimic candles. Not only do they stay lit but they won’t cause a fire.
- When setting out your decorations be careful with electrical cords. Remember that not only will young children be approaching your door, but they are likely to be approaching at breakneck speed in a sugar fueled frenzy.
- Give Fido the night off. You may have the most lovable friendly puppy in the world but constant bell ringing by throngs of screaming demons could confuse even the most laid back of dogs. Put him in the back or in a part of the house where he doesn’t have to be bothered by all the commotion.