Murchison & Cumming, LLP Wins Big in Assumption of Risk Case

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The Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego held that a patron chased by a chainsaw-wielding actor at a Halloween haunted attraction assumed the risk he may become frightened, run and fall as a result of that fear when he chose to engage in the activity, and therefore had no claim against the facility.

In a decision published this last week, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego held that a patron chased by a chainsaw-wielding actor at a Halloween haunted attraction assumed the risk he may become frightened, run and fall as a result of that fear when he chose to engage in the activity, and therefore had no claim against the facility. The decision in Scott Griffin v. The Haunted Hotel, Inc. (2015 DJDAR 12569), applied recent Supreme Court authority that extended the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, previously applied almost exclusively to sports and athletic recreational activities, to amusement attractions. The decision affirmed a summary judgment won in San Diego County Superior Court by attorneys from the San Diego office of Murchison & Cumming, LLP, who went on to win the appeal. Jefferson S. Smith was lead counsel, and Scott J. Loeding and David M. Hall handled the motion and appeal.

" 'Patrons in a Halloween haunted house are expected to be surprised, startled and scared by the exhibits but the operator does not have a duty to guard against patrons reacting in bizarre, frightened and unpredictable ways' [citations omitted]," wrote Justice Gilbert Nares in the unanimous opinion. The appellate court affirmed the ruling of the Hon. Katherine A. Bacal, Judge of the Superior Court (Case No. 37-2013-00044186-CU-PO-CTL).

Justice Nares concluded: "[T]he very purpose of the Haunted Trail is to frighten patrons. Haunted Hotel informed patrons the event had 'high impact scares.' Patrons in a Halloween haunted house are expected to be surprised, startled, and scared by the exhibits. That is what Griffin paid money to experience. At bottom, his complaint here is Haunted Hotel delivered on its promise to scare the wits out of him."

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Arleen Milian
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