St. Louis – As winter approaches, we get several premises liability questions from our friends and clients. Essentially during the winter months, clients want to know more about the property owner’s legal duty to prevent injury.
A lot of our winter calls are Christmas related; What if someone slips on ice in my driveway? Will my landlord even let me ‘deck the halls,’ Does my homeowner’s insurance cover reindeer bites, what if Santa gets hurt on my property?
What if Santa gets injured at my house?!
The litigious nature of our society, and the 90’s Tim Allen movie have us all wondering what would happen if Santa did happen to fall off of a roof, or otherwise injure himself on your property.
Here’s what homeowners need to know before Kris Kringle hires a personal injury attorney at Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers to help settle a premises liability claim against you. (Due to client confidentiality, we cannot definitively say whether we have any experience in this matter.)
Is Santa an Invitee or Trespasser?
St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney Aaron Vogel says that, regardless of the cause or extent of the injury, Santa’s Personal Injury Lawyer would first to look into whether or not Santa Claus was, in fact, invited into the home.
If Santa was invited in your home, you as a homeowner are responsible for warning him of possible dangers. This is called the Duty To Warn. If Santa was invited in, and you didn’t mention your 80 pound dog in the living room, your homeowners insurance will likely cover his dog attack injuries.
On the other hand, your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance may not be required to pay if Santa was breaking and entering on Christmas Eve.
So, how would the personal injury attorney representing Santa Claus establish whether this jolly old elf was an invitee? We’ll look at the clues in the Defendant’s house;
- Halls decked with boughs of holly
- Stockings hung by the chimney with care
- Hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there (i.e. Milk and Cookies left out.)
Honestly, due to the nature of Santa’s visits (in the middle of the night when everyone’s asleep) things won’t look good for Mr. Claus.
An Important Note on Duty to Warn
While on the topic of trespassers, it’s important to note that, in some cases, the duty to warn will extend even to people who are on the property unlawfully. The principle applies to trespassers, and to Santa. For more info on this, see our blog on “beware of dog” signs. Essentially, the homeowner should know their property intimately, and therefore warn visitors about the condition.
Safely Decking the Halls
If you are renting a house, you may want to check your lease to make sure your Christmas decorations don’t violate your lease agreement.
While it would be extremely rare-and possibly a violation of your tenant’s rights-for a landlord to specifically prohibit decorations inside your home, but they may be pretty strict about the rules. Have an attorney go over your lease if things seem a bit off, and just be aware that you may be liable for any injuries your decorations cause.
Nobody wants a fire, and nobody wants to injure Santa Claus. Be safe, be prepared, but decorate to your heart’s content!
Open and Obvious Condition
The “open and obvious” rule is something of an exception to the premises liability law in a lot of states. Some defendants may argue that they should not be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries because it was very easy to see the dangerous condition.
For example, if it rains on Christmas Eve, and there are icicles hanging off the roof, it’s safe to assume there may still be patches of ice on the roof. If Santa slips on the ice, he may be liable for all or part of the damages.
“Open and obvious” conditions are going to differ from state to state. Some states contend that, if a reasonable person would have avoided the hazard, it was open and obvious. In other states, the defendant would have to prove that the plaintiff themselves would have been able to see or avoid it.
St. Louis Premises Liability Lawyers
Remember, homeowners insurance and premises liability cases can be complicated, especially when Santa’s magic gets involved. We haven’t even talked about whether or not Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole has its own work comp insurance for Santa and other delivery drivers.
If you’ve been injured while delivering millions of presents to girls and boys across the world, be sure to contact an experienced Christmas liability lawyer at Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers. We’re here to help!