Some Spooky Halloween Liability Issues | What You Need to Know to Avoid a Lawsuit
October 31st has risen from the pumpkin patch once again. Just think about all the fun that Halloween brings: costumes, parties, pumpkins, Charlie Brown (he got a rock), scary movies, and, of course, candy. But have you ever stopped to think about the potential for a Halloween related lawsuit?
Now, I don't want to be a Grinch (oh wait . . . wrong holiday), but it is an interesting topic to discuss. in fact, just today, I received a call from someone asking if they can be held liable if a trick-or-treater who has a food allergy takes candy from him. So for those of you who don't like being scared about such things, let's take a quick broomstick ride around the risks associated with Halloween and ways to avoid liability.
Let's kick off the Halloween fun by answering the question I received today. Can you be held liable if you give out candy to trick-or-treaters who have food allergies? Generally speaking, not likely. You do not owe a duty of care when it comes to making sure that kids with allergies don't eat your candy. Of course, there may be circumstances where liability could be created. Such as if you know a certain child has allergies and you deliberately give him or her non-allergy free candy. As you can imagine, these situations are rare. So bottom line . . . don't be stingy with the candy.
While you and your children may love Halloween, it may not be in your pet's top 10 list. Oftentimes, dogs who are usually docile and playful can become overstimulated by the lights, sounds, and smells of Halloween. Occasionally, trick-or-treaters may frighten your dog causing him or her to feel threatened. In some instances, your playful pooch may even react by biting an unsuspecting customed candy collector.
While dog bite laws vary from state-to-state, some states have statutes and laws that hold dog owners responsible for bites even if this is the dog's first bite. So, to be safe, make sure that you give your pets a safe and secure place to hang out on Halloween night.
Be Aware When Driving
While it seems like common sense, far too many people "fly" down local streets on Halloween despite all of the potential danger that exists. Obviously, it can be difficult to see trick-or-treaters as they run, skip or dance through the streets. So, drive slowly and defensively. Expect kids to step out into the street.
Most importantly, remember that in most situations, the driver is held liable for striking a pedestrian, especially if that driver is speeding, driving under the influence, or simply not being reasonably careful while operating his vehicle.
Keeping Sidewalks and Walkways Clear
Property laws, like dog bite laws, vary. States have different laws concerning the duties of guests, visitors, and trespassers on one's property. One tip to help you avoid any potential liability is to make sure that your sidewalks and walkways are clear and free from debris and hazards. It doesn't take long to clear toys, tools and other hazards off of walking paths adjacent to your house.
Check Your Insurance
It is always a good idea, especially during the holidays when you may have an increased number of guests and visitors on your property to make sure that your homeowner's or renters insurance policy is active and provides adequate coverage.
Halloween should be all about fun. Nothing spoils a fun holiday like injuries and lawsuits. By preparing your home and property and by being aware of the issues discussed above, you can enjoy Halloween without fear of being sued. Just make sure not to run out of candy!
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