The Scary Legal World of Halloween


You already know that the legal world is a pretty scary place anyway, but Halloween is here and it’s time to revel in scary stuff, so let’s see what’s especially scary or “Halloweeny” in legal matters.

If you’re into Contract Law, there are numerous stories, legends, and movies about making contracts with the Devil.  These always involve a contract for the Devil to take possession of your soul in exchange for fame and worldly goods.  The classic example is the story of Dr. Faust.  The people in these stories usually find out things aren’t that great even when they get what they want or that there is some twist to keeping the details of the contract — a  good reminder to always read the fine print and think about the implications.  One of my favorites of this type was a Twilight Zone episode in which a man signs a contract with the Devil exchanging his soul for immortality, thinking the Devil would never be able to collect on the bargain.  However, he winds up in jail for life (which, for him, is going to be eternity).  Facing eternity in a jail cell, he begs the Devil for death.  The Devil grants his wish and collects his soul.  If you want a good legal analysis of contracts with the Devil, check out this article:  Dealing with the Devil: Professor Explores Contracts with the Prince of Darkness in Popular Culture.

What else?  Well, as you might imagine, Halloween is a gold mine for Torts issues.  Lawsuits abound from injuries resulting from commercial haunted houses, pranks gone bad, and bad costumes.  Slander even gets into the picture for people putting “tombstone” decorations in their yard that badmouth their neighbors.  You can read about last year’s spooky torts and shenanigans here : Spooky Torts: The 2012 List Of Halloween Litigation Horrors.

Last but not least, even Property Law gets involved, at least as far as haunted houses.  You can read about the Stambovsky v. Ackley case here:  Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991).  This is an often cited case since the court decided the house in question had to legally be considered haunted.  Many states now have disclosure laws involving property that is publicly deemed to be haunted.

So that’s your guide to keeping Halloween legal ( haha ).  Have a wonderful Halloween and stay safe out there!

Evil Bob (bwaaahaaahaaa)




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