With Halloween just around the corner, it seems only fitting that it should be the topic of this week’s blog post. While you are decorating your house, carving your pumpkins, and picking out your costumes, you might not be thinking about avoiding legal entanglements that may result from the celebration. Thankfully, you read my blog, and I have compiled a short list of things for you to consider this holiday weekend:
- Costume etiquette – Besides being tasteful and conscientious enough not to wear your “naughty librarian” costume to your kid’s school’s fall festival, there are other places you should avoid wearing your costume. Do not wear your Halloween mask while driving. Many masks will block your periphery vision, resulting in impaired driving ability, and a ticket. It would also be inappropriate to wear your ski mask into a convenience store or bank.
- Decorating your house – Premises liability is always a concern when having guests over for parties. Halloween is probably the only holiday that someone might decorate with pointy objects and other tools of mayhem. If you use such decorations, be sure they are secure and out of reach.
- Drink (and serve) responsibly – Alex Beard covered this topic last December, but it applies to Halloween parties as much as it applies to Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties.
- Prepare the front entrance for trick-or-treaters – Again with the premises liability. On Halloween, if you turn your lights on and decorate, you are inviting the public onto your property. When you invite the public onto your property, you owe the public certain legal duties. If you know that you have a loose cobble stone that could twist an ankle, you should probably get that fixed before Halloween night. Just picture the little boy and his baby brother walking up your cobble stone path, hand in hand, when one of them twists an ankle, pulling the other down on top of them. Given the number of plastic assault weapons in my home, I can always imagine numerous ways a child can hurt him/herself. Think ahead and make sure that your front lawn and walkway are safe for children before turning your lights on this Halloween.
- Treats, not tricks – Every year, the morning after Halloween, I see a car covered with eggs or a house draped in toilet paper. I admit that I laugh, but I am also very grateful that I am not the one trying to get TP out of a tree or having to get paint chips repaired. Remember, a “trick” can also be classified as “vandalism” or “willful destruction of private property.”
- Flaming Pumpkins of Death – NFPA’s most recent statistics show that decorations were the first item to be ignited in an average of 860 reported home structure fires per year from 2009-2013, causing an estimated average of one civilian death, 41 civilian injuries and $13.4 million in direct property damage. Nearly half of all decoration fires in homes are the result of decorations being too close to a heat source. I found this statistic HERE, along with a nice list of safety tips.
After researching and writing this blog post, I have decided that Halloween is a really hazardous holiday. Be safe and please share any additional suggestions you may have for avoiding a truly scary Halloween.
Saunders, Walsh & Beard is a business litigation law firm in McKinney, Texas. Formed in 2012, today SWB has more than 16 attorneys. The firm assists individuals and businesses with commercial, business and tort litigation, construction law, corporate and partnership formation and expansion, employment law, insurance disputes, judgment collection, personal jurisdiction, and real estate. We believe the client’s “experience” is of paramount importance. Explore our practice areas and see why the attorneys of Saunders, Walsh & Beard are ranked by their clients and peers as among the best in their fields.