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Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Scariest Thing About Halloween is . . . The Liability!


By: Peter J. Lamont, Esq.
New Jersey Business and Personal Law Attorney
Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont

Trick or treaters will soon be visiting and preparations must be made. Apart from the obvious requirements (candy and costumes), your 'to do' list should include a liability checkup.

Ensure you are adequately covered by your household insurance carrier should a mishap injure a visiting guest. Understand the limitations of your coverage and should you have questions - ask your agent who should be able to answer most of your queries. If you are still uncertain concerning a tricky issue left unanswered by your agent - consult your attorney.

As to the condition of the property, many homeowners take a laid back approach - "what you see is what you get". And that is fine as far as it goes, but a look at the New Jersey law concerning social guests may sound a few warning bells.

A trick or treater is a "social guest" as defined by the law, and as such, must accept the premises as they find them, meaning that a homeowner is under no obligation to make the property safer for a guest than for themselves.

Now - here comes the 'however'...

However, should the owner be aware of an issue that might compromise a guest's safety and the guest could not reasonably be expected to be aware of the problem; the owner could be held liable should an injury occur.

Consider that loose step you constantly avoid thinking to yourself, "I've go to fix that", every time you ascend the stairs. It could be a potential lawsuit.

Whereas our close friends may not bring suit as a result of a slip on an icy walk sustained at our annual holiday season party; an irate parent will, should their child be injured during a Halloween visit.

Be observant as to the condition of your property and adequately repair any potential problems in order to minimize your liability.

Ensure the property is properly lit and tidy. A well lit house is safer and less of a target for vandals. And it's probably time to bring in the garden tools strewn around the yard anyway!

Secure potentially dangerous animals.

Make certain walkways are clear and free of snow and ice should the weather require.

Trees can be magnets for playful children - make sure any loose or broken limbs are taken care of.

A yard gym set is also a child's delight - ensure it is safe and in good repair.

Lastly, cover your bases by putting up signs warning of potential problems which cannot be repaired - a good idea any time of the year.

A little diligence and care will ensure a safe and litigation-free Halloween.

If you would like more information about this topic or have general legal questions, please feel free to contact me at (973)949-3770 or via email at plamont@peterlamontesq.com We answer legal questions on a daily basis and would be happy to discuss any issues or questions that you have with you.  Offices in: New Jersey New York, Colorado & Puerto Rico.  Affiliated throughout the country.

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