The legal rule known as “assumption of the risk” has long applied to participants in sports. In 2012, the California Supreme Court extended it to apply to guests at an amusement park’s bumper-car attraction. Recently, the California Court of Appeal concluded that this legal defense against an injured guest’s negligence claim also applied when it comes to haunted house attractions. The legal rules requiring a business to keep its premises free of risks of injury did not extend to guests injured while running because they were frightened by a component of the attraction.
Many people have visited Halloween-themed attractions like downtown San Diego’s “Haunted Hotel.” Like most haunted house attractions, this one involves actors who “jump out of dark spaces often inches away from patrons, holding prop knives, axes, chainsaws, or severed body parts.” In the fall of 2011, Scott Griffin visited the Haunted Hotel. After many frights and scares, Griffin stepped through a gap in a chain-link fence, believing he had exited the attraction. In reality, the fence was a false exit, and Griffin was still inside the attraction. A chainsaw-wielding actor approached and then chased the man. Griffin ran away from the actor, tripped, fell, and injured his wrist.