Can Haunted Houses be Sued for being Too Scary?
Haunted houses have become scarier over the years. The primary reason for that is the constantly changing and growing demand of the target market. Old school thrills and surprises don’t scare enough people any more. It is fair to infer that the traditional haunted house business is pretty much a nonstarter as not enough people are interested in exploring the conventional thrills. This has led to a new crop of haunted houses that take to the extremes. They have redefined what it means to scare people.
Traditionally, haunted houses have used darkness and special lights, minimal or no visibility, sound effects, quaint pathways and décor, actors or performers with harmless props to scare the patrons. There was an unwritten code that no haunted house will physically touch or abuse the patrons. Anyone walking into a haunted house knew that they would be completely safe, no matter how scary the place is. Not many people complained about these conventional haunted houses. However, with the advent of extreme haunted houses, there are more side effects now and people are suing such businesses.
In one instance, forty four year old Scott Griffin went to explore the Haunted Trail with his friends over Halloween. San Diego’s Haunted Trail is a popular activity among residents and tourists. The facility is operated by Haunted Hotel Inc. Griffin endured all the over the top scares through the trail and emerged victorious at the end, having encountered nothing too unsettling. But at the end of the trail, which is when they had thought the amusement was over, an actor came charging towards Griffin with a chainsaw. Griffin tried to run but fell. The actor was clearly gestured to stop and Griffin even asked the actor to do so as he tried to get away. Griffin hurt both his wrists after he fell down and it took him several weeks to recover.
Scott Griffin filed a lawsuit and claimed an undisclosed amount in damages. His case was dismissed by the court. The attorney representing Haunted Hotel Inc. successfully argued that Griffin knew he was going to be treated with some scary acts and there is a clear warning on the tickets. If Griffin had paid for the ticket and chosen voluntarily to explore the trail, then the consequences of the adventure would be his to bear and not the responsibility of the establishment.
Haunted houses are supposed to be scary and if people are afraid of the thrills or the potential consequences then they should just stay away. However, just as Griffin’s lawyer tried to argue and failed, how much is enough and when it is taking the whole haunted house adventure too far to risk the safety of the customers. For instance, in a separate incident reported by one Amy Milligan against McKamey Manor, she described how the haunted house physically tortured her and she has been left emotionally scarred forever. She even had injuries caused during her experience at McKamey manor, also in San Diego. Here again, McKamey Manor clearly advertises itself as an extreme haunted house experience and gets customers to sign waivers, which automatically reduces or eliminates the chances of winning a lawsuit.