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“Trip” or Treat

A quick look at the legal liabilities coming October 31

Halloween is one of the most beloved holidays in North America. And as with all things cherished, we lawyers are here to ruin it.

For lawyers, the scariest word on Halloween isn’t “Boo” — it’s “Liability”. A loose paving stone. A broken stair. A weak railing. All things that might put you as a homeowner at risk when the children come to stick you up for treats. 

Under the Occupiers Liability Act, If you have some control over a property, you are responsible for making sure that it is safe for the safety of people who come onto it — even if they are doing something otherwise reckless, like taking candy from strangers.

On Halloween there may be hundreds of unfamiliar feet treading on that lifted paving stone or that cracked step. Many of these guests already have unsteady feet and limited eyesight due to their superhero masks. When we add in scary surprises and flying frights, it is a recipe for catastrophe.

Thin Skull

Further, some people have proverbial “thin skulls” – meaning they may be more susceptible to a major injury from a minor bump. 

Be it a heart issue, underdeveloped or brittle bones, or an extreme fear of giant spider decorations, you take your guests as they are. The fact that the injury was more serious than might be expected is not a defence.

Contributory Negligence

However, damages for injuries can be reduced by “contributory negligence”, where the injured person took some unreasonable steps that helped to cause or increase the injury. 

Masks and long robes or cloaks can limit your ability to properly see what is underfoot and therefore may greatly contribute to the risk of injury. 

Take Aways

With lawyers, the adage of “Nobody Move and Nobody Gets Hurt” applies not just to bank robberies, but daily life. Of course, we are not wanting to rob you of your fun this year — but please, before the little tykes arrive, consider the following:

  1. Take a walk of your entrance and approach to see if anything could cause an unexpected fall or slip;
  2. Get any hazard fixed, or use a bright colour or post a clear sign to make it visible;
  3. Keep walkways clear of tripping or slipping hazards – it is getting colder of course, so salt if necessary;
  4. Keep a light on over any stairs or other common hazards;
  5. Ensure that any laser-lights are directed away from eye-level where people will be walking;
  6. Avoid the jump scare – or if you really cannot help yourself, at least save it for the ground level, not the staircase; and, most importantly,
  7. Make sure your liability insurance is up to date.

And as a trick-or-treater:

  1. Opt for face-paint over masks, or make sure that you have a good field of vision when choosing your mask;
  2. Avoid robes or cloaks that drag on the ground, which can get tangled under your child’s or another person’s feet;
  3. Use highly-reflective costumes to help you be seen, particularly on the street;
  4. Bring a flashlight with you to light up dark areas – if nothing else, it may help you anticipate the surprise!

Despite everyone’s best intentions, as Casper might say, “sheet happens.” When it does, it is important that you consult with a lawyer to see what your options are.

Ericksons LLP has been a fixture of the Thunder Bay and North Shore legal community for over 40 years. Our personal injury team would be happy to provide you with more information. Please contact us by phone at 807-345-1213 / 1-800-465-3912 or visit us at

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