Earlier this month in California, an appellate court heard a case brought by a young man who was injured when he tripped and fell after being startled at a haunted attraction. The court ultimately decided that the plaintiff assumed the risk of such an injury by participating in an activity known to be inherently dangerous.
In the case, Griffin v. The Haunted Hotel, Inc., the plaintiff visited the defendant’s haunted attraction with a group of friends. As they group was waiting in line, an announcement was made, warning those before they entered the attraction that, while no one was going to intentionally touch them, they would be chased, scared, and tormented by staff. There was a sign near the entrance warning, “Due to natural surroundings of the park, the ground may be uneven with some obstacles such as tree roots, rocks, etc. Be careful.”
The plaintiff and his friends made it through what they believed to be the entire attraction, and they were waiting in a “well-lit, even surface” when a man with a chainsaw jumped out and began pointing the saw at the plaintiff and his friends. The plaintiff, feeling that the attraction was over and that the man was singling him out, began to back up, away from the employee. The employee was persistent and would not leave the plaintiff alone, and the plaintiff eventually started to run away. As he was running, the plaintiff tripped and fell, injuring his wrist. The plaintiff sued the Haunted Hotel under a premises liability theory.
The Defendant Asks the Court to Dismiss Based on the Plaintiff’s Assumption of the Risks Involved
At trial, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to find that the plaintiff knew the risks involved in participating but nonetheless decided to participate. The court agreed, applying the legal doctrine of “assumption of the risk.”
Assumption of the risk is a legal doctrine that is used to protect those who offer recreational activities that have well-known and inherent dangers. When the doctrine applies, a defendant is not required to eliminate all dangers associated with its activity and can only be held liable for dangers above and beyond those that were expected.
In this case, the court agreed that the defendant assumed the risks involved, given the numerous warnings given to patrons of the facility.
Maryland’s Assumption of the Risk Doctrine
Like Indiana, Maryland has its own version of the assumption of the risk doctrine. In order for a defendant to benefit from the doctrine, he or she must show that the plaintiff had knowledge of the risk involved, the plaintiff appreciated that risk, and the plaintiff voluntarily encountered the risk. The doctrine is often at issue in premises liability cases.
Have You Been Injured While Engaging in a Recreational Activity?
If you or a loved one were recently injured while engaging in a potentially dangerous recreational activity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. While defenses do exist in some cases for property owners, it would be a mistake to assume that you will not be able to recover compensation based on the above discussion. Each of the elements of a defense must be proven by a defendant before they are able to benefit from it, and a dedicated attorney can help you prove to the court that the defense should not apply. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced Maryland accident attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Two Killed in Glen Burnie Head-On Collision; Alcohol Suspected to Be a Factor, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 2, 2015.
Marine Struck and Killed in Thurmont by Hit-and-Run Driver, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 7, 2015.