By Debra Cassens Weiss
Halloween can be fertile ground for lawsuits.
There have been suits over neighbors’ Halloween displays, suits over haunted house injuries, and suits claiming sexual harassment due to remarks about Halloween costumes, according to an article in the New York State Bar Association Journal (PDF).
Cases from the last several years include:
• A Florida woman sued her neighbor for defamation, harassment and emotional distress because of Halloween decorations that included an insane asylum sign that pointed to her yard and a fake tombstone with an inscription she viewed as a reference to her single status. It read, “At 48 she had no mate no date/ It’s no debate she looks 88.”
• A man who created tombstones lampooning his neighbors filed a First Amendment suit against police for asking him to take them down. One of the tombstones read: “Bette wasn’t ready, but here she lies ever since that night she died, 12 feet deep in this trench, still wasn’t deep enough for that wenches stench!” The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the police officer was entitled to qualified immunity.
The article also chronicles “the most infamous haunted house case” in which a New York appeals court ruled in a suit by a homeowner who wanted to rescind a home purchase because it was inhabited by ghosts. The appeals court noted that the seller had told the media about ghosts. As a result, the court said in its 1991 opinion, the seller was “estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.”