Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Here are some of our favorite Halloween cases:
- United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D. Pa. 1971). A civil rights action against Satan and his servants for allegedly placing deliberate obstacles in the pro se plaintiff's path, causing his downfall and depriving him of his constitutional rights. The court questioned whether the plaintiff could obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in Pennsylvania, although the court noted an unofficial account of "a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff." Id. at 283.
- Lugosi v. Universal Pictures, 160 Cal. Rptr. 323, 603 P.2d 425 (Cal. 1979). The widow and son of the actor who played Dracula sued Universal Pictures for licensing others to use the Count Dracula character. The California Supreme Court ruled that the right to exploit a name and likeness is personal to the artist and must be exercised, if at all, during the artist's lifetime.
- Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254, 572 N.Y.S.2d 672 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dept.1991). The court ruled that because a home seller had previously reported the Victorian house as being haunted, the seller was estopped from denying the existence of poltergeists on the premises. The house was haunted as a matter of law. The court also ruled that haunting cannot ascertained by reasonable inspection of the premises. Id. at 257, 572 N.Y.S.2d at 675 ("[T]he notion that a haunting is a condition which can and should be ascertained upon reasonable inspection of the premises is a hobgoblin which should be exorcised from the body of legal precedent and laid quietly to rest.").
- Griffin v. Haunted Hotel, Inc., 194 Cal. Rptr. 3d 830, 242 Cal. App. 4th 490 (2015). A patron of a haunted house attraction assumed the risk of injury from being frightened by an actor confronting him with a chain saw. "The risk that a person will be frightened, run, and fall is inherent in the fundamental nature of a haunted house attraction . . . ." Id. at 834, 242 Cal. App. 4th at 493.
- Galan v. Covenant House New Orleans, 695 So.2d 1007 (La. Ct. App. 1997). "[T]he very purpose of a haunted house is to frighten its patrons." Id. at 1009.
- Hayward v. Carraway, So.2d 758 (La. Ct. App. 1965). The court held that believing that house is haunted was not a defense to liability for vandalism.
Looking for a book? Try this:
- Douglas Graham, Trick or Treaty?, (Institute of Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand 1997).
If you're looking for a law review article, try this:
- Adam Chodorow, Death and Taxes and Zombies, 98 Iowa L. Rev. 1207 (2013) (probably can be used to support the proposition that taxes are very scary).
And here's a link you'll want to explore further: the Harvard Law School Law Library's Halloween and the Law.
Hat tips to Adriana Duffy, Kim Holst, and Tami Lefko.