Boo Sue: Can A Haunted House Go Too Far?
When Scott Griffin visited a haunted house, he expected to be scared, but he ended up getting more than he bargained for—two broken wrists. He sued the haunted house for negligence and assault. The attraction was set up to make the visitor, or victim as Griffin saw it, think the scaring was over.
Past the “Exit” and “Come Back Soon” signs and other visual cues to make the visitor drop his or her guard was a mock graveyard, appearing to be more decoration than anything, which made for a great jump scare when a Jason Voorhees-esque character jumped out with a chainsaw and ran at the unsuspecting guests.
When this Jason guy came out at Scott Griffin, he hauled it. Jason sensed a good victim, singled Scott out and chased Scott into the parking lot. Scott yelled at Jason to stop (Jason claimed he could not hear Scott over the noise of the chainsaw), but Jason did not stop, and Griffin fell face first, blocking his fall with his hands and suffering two broken wrists.
Scott sued the haunted house just like dozens of others across the country over the years when they felt that the house went too far. “Assumption of the Risk” is the legal doctrine of “you asked for it.”
“Assumption of the Risk” prohibits a person from person from recovering damages in scenarios where that person voluntarily accepted the inherent risks of an activity. A very common example used by unoriginal law professors and legal column writers is rock climbing—if you go indoor rock climbing, you assume the risk of falling while climbing, and cannot sue for falling.
Inherent risks only, though, and if you fall onto a pile of broken glass at the rock-climbing facility, well, then you can sue for the facility allowing a pile of broken glass at the bottom of the rock climbing wall. Scott Griffin claimed that being chased through the parking lot was not a risk that he assumed when he entered the haunted house, not an inherent risk.
The California Courts, consistent with courts across the country, said that it was not going to get all nit-picky with haunted houses over the line between inherent and not inherent risks, and that a person cannot sue a haunted house for unexpected or allegedly overzealous scares. You run at your own risk.
PETA Videos Are Allowed
A North Carolina law allows employers to sue employees who make undercover video or audio recordings at work. The law was enacted in 2015 in a wave of laws around the country that PETA calls “Ag Gag” laws. PETA wants to deputize employees of factory farms and laboratories to video animals to expose the allegedly inhumane conditions.
The agriculture and laboratory industry lobbied for and obtained laws in many states that allowed them to hold the threat of a lawsuit over the head of any employee considering making videos for PETA. Numerous courts around the country have addressed these laws, with different results.
The US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) held that the law was constitutional unless the employee was making the recording for “newsgathering purposes.”
North Carolina asked the Supreme Court to review that decision and resolve the issue nationwide. North Carolina argued that the “newsgathering purposes” exception raised more questions than it answered and would be impossible to apply. The State said that anyone can claim a video was intended for media distribution. The State asked if intending to publish a video on social media “newsgathering.”
The Supreme Court turned down the case. Expect more PETA advertisements with sad videos.
Newsom Nips New Law
I would be lying if I said I really understood the Indian caste system. I think it is fair to say that it is a system of social hierarchy in which a person inherits lifetime placement in a certain social group. The California legislature recently passed a bill that specifically banned caste discrimination in California after lobbying by equal rights organizations that claimed existing law did not protect lower-caste workers from employment discrimination from higher-caste supervisors.
Hard to find an argument against that, but Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent pivot toward a centrist position, and his high-class roots got in the way. Newsome was born with seventeen silver spoons in his mouth (his father was general counsel for Getty Oil and the Getty Family Trust, one of the wealthiest families in the world), and you remember Newsom is the kind of guy who dines at The French Laundry in the middle of California’s multi-year Covid shut down that ran family businesses out of business.
He not surprisingly vetoed the bill preventing upper class discriminating against the lower class.
Mitchell Driskell has practiced law for twenty-two years, currently with the Tannehill & Carmean firm (voted Oxford’s Best Law Firm every year since 2010). Before the law, he was a stay-at-home uncle. You can call him at 662.236.9996 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He practices personal injury law, criminal law, and family law.