The Scariest Part of Halloween Could Be a Lawsuit

While Halloween is a night of fun, the special circumstances surrounding trick-or-treating and parties mean a variety of opportunities to commit actionable negligence. Here are a few thoughts on protecting yourself from liability on Halloween:

 

  1. Don’t leave open candles anywhere outside. While your sidewalk may look great lined with real lanterns, this creates a foreseeable risk that someone could accidentally knock them over or that a child’s costume could catch fire.

 

  1. Keep pets inside. Even if your dog is normally well-behaved, strangers, Halloween costumes, and props can cause your dog to get scared or territorial and lead to a dog bite incident. Especially if your dog has had a history of biting (even one time), a dog bite could expose you to liability.

 

  1. Beware of the “pop-out and scare.” Many homeowners like to add to the atmosphere of Halloween by dressing up as a monster and popping out from the side of a porch or from behind trees or bushes to scare trick-or-treaters. If you choose to engage in this fun, ensure that the “scare zone” is away from stairs or any other tripping hazard.

 

  1. Be watchful of your child’s costume props. If your kid’s costume comes with pointed or sharp props—think swords, bow-and-arrows, etc.—consider buying plush or softer props or only using the props at home for pictures. If your child accidentally harms another child with a toy sword, you could be held liable for negligent entrustment or negligent supervision.

 

  1. Label candy with allergens. If you are giving out candy with peanuts, be sure to either label the candy or tell parents of trick-or-treaters.

 

  1. Provide a safe terrain. Ensure that the walking areas leading up to your front door are safe. Fix loose boards or uneven areas of concrete, and remove roots that trick-or-treaters could trip over. If you don’t afford to fix these issues before Halloween, make sure the area is well-lit.

 

  1. Avoid social host liability. If you host a party on Halloween night, you run the risk of being held liable as a social host if one of your guests, after leaving your party, drives drunkenly and injures someone. A “Bring Your Own Beer” policy may not shield you from liability. As safe alternatives, offer to call taxis for intoxicated guests or provide a place for intoxicated guests to sleep.