A Buffalo attorney, Daniel B. Moar, wrote an interesting article for the New York State Bar Association Journal on this very topic. The article, entitled “Case Law From the Crypt,” discusses situations were common Halloween traditions, like haunted houses and provocative costumes, have landed some people in hot water.
Here are just a few of my favorite cases from Moar’s article:
- Haunted House: “In Mays v. Gretna Athletic Boosters, Inc., the plaintiff was so startled by a haunted house ‘monster’ that she ran straight into a cinder block wall, crushing her nose. The plaintiff argued that the lack of lighting and darkened wall presented an unreasonably dangerous condition that the defendant owed a duty to protect her from. The court disagreed, noting that the conditions complained of were the very attributes of a haunted house.”
- Provocative Costumes: “In Devane v. Sears Home Improvement Products, Inc., a female sales employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit based in part on comments made by a male manager regarding her doctor costume. Specifically, upon seeing the employee’s costume, the manager unbuckled his pants and while pointing to his groin, said ‘here Doctor. It hurts here.’ The Court of Appeals of Minnesota affirmed the district court’s judgment against the employer for sexual harassment and hostile work environment.”
- Egg Throwing: “Courts have also imposed civil and criminal liability on egg throwers. For example, in one case a married couple made the ill-advised choice to ignore trick-or-treaters that visited their house, with the inevitable result that their house was then pummeled with eggs. However, the couple identified one of the egg throwers as a neighborhood child (specifically, the child who lived directly next door to them). The child was convicted of felony vandalism and ordered to pay civil restitution.”
For more interesting stories of Halloween intersecting with the law, checkout Moar’s article.