Earlier this month, a California appellate court decided a case that arose when a man was injured after he tripped and fell while fleeing from a chainsaw-wielding employee at a haunted attraction. In the case, Griffin v. The Haunted Hotel, Inc., the plaintiff was a visitor to one of the defendant’s several haunted attractions operated in the San Diego area.
According to court documents, the plaintiff had completed what he thought was the entire attraction, but there was one final scare that caught the plaintiff off guard. As a chainsaw-wielding employee jumped out to scare the plaintiff and his group, the plaintiff ran, tripping and injuring his wrist.
The defendant explained to the court that every group of patrons hears an announcement prior to entering the facility. It explains that no one will touch them but that some risks do exist when touring the facility. The plaintiff admitted that the announcement was made, but he didn’t recall hearing it on the day in question. The plaintiff also testified that he thought he and his group were finished with the attraction, and they were waiting in a “well-lit, even surface” when the chainsaw-wielding man approached him. The plaintiff testified that the man singled him out, and he got scared. He asked the man to stop and started to back away, but the employee was relentless, and eventually the plaintiff decided to run. He ran for an unspecified distance before tripping and injuring his wrist.
At trial, The Haunted Hotel moved for summary judgment, meaning that it asked the court to dismiss the case before it even reached trial. The defendant argued that the plaintiff had “assumed the risk” of any injury he incurred, due to the known dangers that can arise when visiting a haunted attraction. Essentially, the defendant’s position was summed up in a representative’s statement, which was that the plaintiff “was never in harm. . . . He ran. He chose to run. You can’t chase a human that doesn’t run. If he had just stood there and said ‘stop,’ then it’s not fun. You move on. You scare somebody else.”
The Court Utilized the Doctrine of Assumption of the Risk to Dismiss the Plaintiff’s Case
The Court hearing the case agreed with the defendant and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, based on the legal principle of assumption of the risk. The appellate court affirmed, clarifying that the doctrine applies to those who offer recreational activities that have some well-known inherent risks. In these circumstances, the person or company offering the recreational services is under no duty to eliminate all known risks because the person participating assumes the risk involved.
In Indiana, courts have held that a person can assume the risk of a potentially dangerous recreational activity. However, usually the defendant must show that the person whom they claimed “assumed the risk” signed some kind of contract or was otherwise made aware of the risks they were taking on by engaging in the activity.
Have You Been Injured While Engaging in Dangerous Recreational Activity?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while engaging in some kind of dangerous physical or recreational activity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries through a premises liability action or another related lawsuit. However, it is important to keep in mind that defendants will likely contest the claims made against them by any means possible, including by claiming that you assumed the risk inherent in the activity. To make sure that you understand what will be expected of you at trial, and to ensure that you are treated fairly throughout the process, contact a dedicated Indiana personal injury attorney at 888-765-7411 today.
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