Court Says 'Tough' if You're Scared in 'Haunted House' Nov 25, 2015 21:32:21 GMT -5 aprillynn93 likes this
Post by Joanna on Nov 25, 2015 21:32:21 GMT -5
Court Says 'Tough' if You're Scared in 'Haunted House'
If you visit a “haunted house” at Halloween time and come out the worse for wear, don’t blame the spirits, or the owners. At least as long as whatever harm you suffered was the result of being scared out of your wits. A state appeals court has given precedent-setting status to a ruling that gave the scary mansions the same legal status as ski lodges, bumper cars and other commercial recreational facilities: They’re not responsible for injuries caused by an “inherent risk” of the activity.
In this case, the court said, that risk was the terror Scott Griffin experienced after leaving what he thought was the exit gate of the Haunted Trail, an outdoor haunted house at Balboa Park in San Diego, one evening shortly before Halloween in 2011. As he walked away, laughing with a group of friends, he said, a man turned on a gas-powered chainsaw and pointed it at him. Griffin said he backed away, asked the man to stop, then started running, with the saw-wielder in pursuit. Griffin fell and injured his wrist.
In a lawsuit against the trail’s owner, Haunted Hotel Inc., Griffin argued that the company should not have trained its actors to chase visitors beyond the marked exit. He said he had feared he was in danger – real fear, he argued, as opposed to the "fun fear" he felt inside the gate. Haunted Hotel said the fake exit was part of the trail, and the man with the saw – which had no chain – was the park's "Carrie effect." It’s a reference to the last scene in the movie Carrie, and many other horror flicks, in which the audience is given one final scare after being led to believe their horror is over.
Lawyers for the company said its website, where Griffin had bought his ticket, showed pictures of actors holding chainsaws. In addition, an audiotape played for all visitors warned that if they tried to run, “our creatures will chase you down like the chickens that you are.”
A judge dismissed Griffin’s suit, a ruling that the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego upheld last month and certified Nov. 20 as a legal precedent. Unless the state Supreme Court intervenes, the decision will be binding on trial courts statewide. The case involves "an adult who pays money to experience extreme fright, and receives exactly what he paid for," Justice Gilbert Nares said in the 3-0 ruling. "The point of the Haunted Trail is to scare people, and the risk that someone will become scared and react by running away cannot be eliminated without changing the basic character of the activity," Nares added. He cited past rulings dismissing suits over injuries that were found to be part of the “inherent risk” of a recreational activity – a bumper-car rider injured in a head-on collision, a patron of the Burning Man festival who tripped and fell into the remnants of the still-burning effigy. According to Nares, proprietors can be sued for unreasonably increasing the normal risks of harm, but in the three years before Griffin’s mishap, 10 to 15 other visitors had fallen while running from the man with the chainsaw and none reported any injuries.
Griffin’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Source: Bob Egelko, The San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 2015.