Trick or Treat: could you be liable this Halloween?

October 14, 2019

As Halloween quickly approaches and the trick-or-treaters come flocking, homeowners are being urged to think about claims that could be brought against them as a result of injuries or accidents that occur on their property. Victoria Stevenson, head of personal injury at leading law firm Roythornes Solicitors, shares her top tips for avoiding liability this Halloween.

As children and their parents blow the cobwebs off their costumes this Halloween, ready to threaten unimaginable horrors if not rewarded with chocolate and sweets, it is time to perhaps think about hidden booby traps.

Whether you see this tradition as fun and games or a feast of mass consumerism it is likely you will receive a visit on the evening of 31 October. Should the worst happen and one of the little monsters approaching your door injures themselves or they choke on the treat you provide, who is liable?

As a homeowner or occupier of a property you owe a duty of care to these visitors and you may find yourself liable if any accidents are caused by the dangerous condition of your property. This duty of care means you should ensure your property is reasonably safe. If you are aware of a specific danger you must take steps to highlight that danger even to those trespassing on your property without your permission.

Tips for avoiding liability

  • Fix that gaping hole in your pumpkin patch or take a look at that rickety staircase up to your front door to avoid exposing you to a claim if the risk of danger is not obvious
  • Take care to make sure that garden paths are well illuminated and that any defects you are aware of are adequately fenced off or there is an appropriate warning notice.

The Law in this area is governed by the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957 (Lawful Visitors) and Occupier’s Liability Act 1984 (Persons other than Visitors). You do not have a duty to prevent all accidents but you are obliged to exercise reasonable care for the safety of visitors to your property.

Remember, children are generally less aware of the dangers around them than adults are.  When looking at liability the Courts will take into account the age of the child and the level of understanding a child that age may be expected to have.

And what about the child who chokes on the treat you give them?
Much depends on the circumstances, but in order for you to be liable where a child chokes on a sweet you have given them or suffers an allergic reaction it would have to be established you had been negligent; that you owed a duty of care to the child, you breached that duty and this caused the injury concerned and the risk of injury was foreseeable.

Halloween may have its roots in ancient times but in the modern day it is all about fun and games, spooks and sorcery. Take care to ensure your Halloween does not turn into a nightmare!

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