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With the arrival of Halloween, little children and litigators will again celebrate their favorite holiday. It is no accident that the Irish not only brought Halloween to the United States (as part of the festival of Samhain) but flooded our state bars with Irish lawyers eager to bring lawsuits over Halloween mishaps. It is a slip-and-fall lawyer’s delight: millions of people dressed clumsily in misfitting costumes and heading out to the wee hours of the night for trick-and-treating. The result is a wicked brew of negligence, product defects, intentional torts, and every other tort and crime known above the netherworld.
So without further ado, here are this year’s spookiest of torts.
Tangle over Trump
In an election year, there is arguably no case that more captures our time than Kelly v. Rando. Kevin Kelly and his girlfriend Regina Jones went to a Halloween party at the Rustic Café in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 2018. They were dressed as Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels. Jesse Rando reportedly assumed that they were critics of Trump and said how it was long overdue to throw the former president in jail. When Kelly revealed that they were actually supporters of Trump, things got ugly fast with an eventual bar fight. Both Kelly and Rando sued for torts ranging from assault to intentional infliction of emotional distress. On June 15, 2023, the court issued the ultimate judgment not only on the torts claims but perhaps the state of our politics. The judge ruled for both the claim of the Plaintiff and the counterclaim of the Defendant and denied any damages to either party.
Sue the clowns
In another June 2023 decision in Munoz v. Six Flags St. Louis, a Missouri court was faced with a claim from Carly Munoz who in 2019 went to Six Flags’ Fright Fest with her cousin. As the name might suggest, it is a night where people are subject to scary scenes and costumed characters. In the three hour period when Munoz was at the park, she was faced with various scary characters, including ten occasions where guests screamed and ran from the jump scares. Then, on her way toward the Mr. Freeze ride, a scary clown jumped out and guests ran. The clown was six feet away from Munoz and was walking toward her when she ran and tripped on a curb and injured herself. She sued for negligence of the park in maintaining a safe environment and the training of staff. The court ruled against her and found that the park’s duty was only to “make conditions as safe as they appear to be” and that Munoz “was aware of the risk she encountered, and expected to be surprised, startled, and scared.”
Another case in the court is a cautionary tale about those creating their own haunted houses . . . particularly those with ravenous monkeys. In October 2021, Danielle Thomas, former exotic dancer known as “Pole Assassin” (and the girlfriend of Texas special teams coach Jeff Banks), found not just herself but her pet monkey and emotional support animal Gia (who once performed with her in her act) in a tort lawsuit.
Thomas converted her home into a house of horrors, including a maze.
She said that the area with Gia was closed off and, as for petting, “no one is allowed to touch her!”
Nevertheless, a lawsuit claims a child, identified as C.C., was taken to the monkey and told Gia was trained to give high fives.
“Instead of giving a high five, Danielle Thomas’s monkey aggressively bit down on C.C.’s hand and refused to let go,” the lawsuit said.
Thomas publicly insists that, “No one was viciously attacked. This a lie, a whole lie! She was not apart of any haunted house, the kid did not have permission to be on the other side of my property!” She blamed the kid as “old enough to . . . follow the rules.”She even posted a walk-through video and insisted that she knows all of the governing legal rules. The video seemed more incriminating than exculpatory. Facing an array of torts including animal liability, licensee liability, negligence, and attractive nuisance claims, there are rumors of a settlement.