10 Tips for Avoiding Legal Trouble on Halloween

The risk of injury and accident increases on Halloween. As many of us focus on what to wear or what candy to buy for trick-or-treaters, don’t forget to protect against potentially dreadful legal troubles on Halloween.

Check your home and property for hazards to avoid a lawsuit. If a child, teen, or adult is injured on your property, you may be held responsible under premises liability laws in Texas:

  • If you decorate your home or yard, realize that a Halloween costume can obscure the wearer’s vision. He or she is more likely to trip and fall.
  • To prevent major accidents and injuries, maintain clear pathways.
  • Avoid using candles. A trick-or-treater or parent’s costume may inadvertently brush up against flames.
  • Don’t forget your dog. He or she may be curious or frightened with all of the new visitors. Even if your dog is friendly, keep him or her in a safe area inside your home to avoid aggressive behaviors.

Let’s review at least 10 tips to avoid getting into legal trouble on Halloween.

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#1: Take Care When Serving Alcohol

Halloween shouldn’t differ from all other days of the year where serving alcohol to visitors is concerned. If you’re having a Halloween party, it’s all too easy to inadvertently serve an alcoholic beverage to an underage guest.

This misstep could get you into legal trouble. You can be held liable for damages when the intoxication of a minor individual contributed to injuries of other persons or property. It’s possible to face criminal charges in some situations as well.

Serving adult guests alcoholic beverages can also raise your liability issues:

  • If the adult party guest with a prior DUI history drives himself or herself from your premises after consuming alcohol at the Halloween party, you can be held liable in Texas.
  • Continuing to serve an intoxicated guest at the party that results in injuries to another person(s) may also result in holding the host liable.

#2: Don’t Wear an Inappropriate Halloween Costume to Work

Even if your employer encourages donning a Halloween costume to work, wearing the wrong costume can get you in some trouble:

  • Don’t wear a costume relating to a hate group, terror or religious organization. Avoid dressing as a famous religious figure. Don’t wear a costume that invokes gore or violence. Never wear anything that’s intended to cause offense to a specific race or ethnic group. Don’t wear a costume that calls to mind the sexual organs of either sex.
  • Similarly, don’t wear a sexy costume to work. This decision can attract unwanted sexual attention. Although sexual harassment isn’t excusable under any circumstances, your decision to wear a sexy costume on Halloween could be used as evidence that you weren’t offended by the sexual attention.

#3: Ensure the Safety of Customers to Your “Haunted House”

Whether your haunted house has been a favorite in the area for years or it’s your first attempt at creating the spookiest haunted house in greater Houston, do everything possible to avoid accidents and injuries:

  • Provide sufficient lighting. A dimly-lit passage or spooky character creating a surprise encounter can cause serious injuries.
  • Even if you require visitors to sign a waiver before entering the haunted house, this doesn’t protect you from lawsuits. You can be held legally responsible for visitors’ injuries or death.

#4: Beware of Flammable Costumes

Halloween costumes are often inexpensive and flammable:

  • A husband and wife decided to attend a Halloween party as Little Bo Peep and a sheep. When the sheep decided to light up, his costume exploded into flames.
  • Because he constructed the costume with Johnson & Johnson cotton balls, his attorney sued the manufacturer for damages. A jury awarded the injured man $625,000.

#5: Take Precautions before Hosting a Halloween Party

Before hosting a Halloween party at your home or business, be extra cautious about your guests’ safety:

  • A woman’s parents received a $500,000 financial award after she fell to her death at a party.
  • She attempted to slide down a long railing at a popular venue. The lawsuit claimed that the venue failed to protect the partygoers (and also continued to serve alcohol to the guests).

#6: Business Owners Should Realize the Risks Associated with Halloween Parties

All business owners should recognize the risks associated with parties:

  • Businesses should state clear expectations for employees’ Halloween costumes (if the business permits employees to wear a costume).
  • A business operating a haunted house or a corn maze should advise clientele of the risks.
  • Bar and restaurant owners should be aware of risks involving the combination of rowdy party behavior and potentially flammable costumes.

#7: Avoid a Potential Halloween Lawsuit at Home

Homeowners can bear a higher responsibility for injuries and accidents on Halloween:

  • Choice of Halloween décor can lead to guests’ injuries and accidents.
  • In a 2007 lawsuit, a man’s decorations (tombstones bearing his neighbors’ names) resulted in a physical altercation.

A homeowner may be held responsible for injuries or accidents resulting from a poorly-maintained porch, lawn, or prank:

  • Maintain well-lit walkways.
  • Remove any potential hazards before Halloween night.

Avoid premises liability lawsuits by keeping your property free of hazards:

  • Walk around the property to identify potential hazards before Halloween night.
  • Remove any potential trip hazards.
  • Put away your garden hose or tools before trick-or-treaters arrive.
  • Ensure that your paths and walkways are well-lit and clear of tripping hazards.

Check your homeowner’s insurance policy for liability coverage. Although your homeowner’s insurance may offer liability coverage in the event of an accident, it might not be enough to compensate a victim’s actual damages. The homeowner may be responsible for paying part or all of a premises liability claim.

#8: Secure Your Animals

Everyone with a pet feels he or she is a member of the family. Realize that Halloween is out of the norm for your dog, cat, parrot, etc.: costumes worn by people they don’t recognize are confusing. It’s confusing for Fluffy or Fido.

He or she may look super-cute in a Halloween costume, but the irritation of the strange sensation and smell can affect his or her normally sunny disposition.

To avoid any potential problems with your pets or animals, secure them. Don’t expect trick-or-treaters to take candies or treats from the bucket held in Fido’s teeth. Try to see things from the perspective of a young child as well.

#9: Check Costume Design for Safety

It’s everyone’s responsibility to stay safe on Halloween:

  • Parents should check children’s costumes and optimize them for safety: 1) Hem costumes to prevent tripping and 2) Use non-toxic make-up instead of a mask. Masks can cause breathing problems and overheating.
  • If the child’s costume requires a prop, make sure it’s safe.

#10: Parents and Halloween Night

Parents should plan the trick-or-treating path in advance:

  • Bring flashlights to protect the child from tripping. Consider using reflective tape and/or glow sticks to keep your child visible and safe.
  • Bring lots of water for Halloween night. Lots of walking, extra heat from the child’s costume and lots of walking can result in thirst. Be prepared when your child asks for a drink of water.
  • If you’re concerned about letting your child eat candy before you’ve inspected it, take some safe candy with you. That way, you’ll know it’s safe to eat. Don’t attempt to inspect candy as you trick-or-treat. Distraction and poor lighting can make this a difficult task.

Use these tips to have a safe and happy Halloween. If you or a loved one is in need of an experienced Houston attorney, contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100 now.

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