Are you ready for another "crazy lawsuit" story? A woman in Pennsylvania is suing a Cedar Fair theme park, claiming that a Halloween Haunt scareactor so frightened her daughter that it caused debilitating injuries.
Having worked the legal beat at a couple of newspapers before, I can tell you that reporters love lawsuit stories. They're easy — almost all the story is told for you, right there in the filing. Just call the defendant's attorney (or PR rep) for an opposing comment to go with your summary of the brief, and you're good to go. Any decent-sized jurisdiction sees a bunch suits filed daily, so you're looking for ones that will really fire up readers. That means finding ones featuring outrageous injustices... or ridiculously absurd claims.
The archetype for these stories was the now-infamous McDonald's coffee case, which started out looking like a ridiculous claim but turned out to be an outrageous injustice. (TL;DR: McDonald's left an elderly woman with nearly fatal injuries because the company was too cheap to buy decent coffee and instead heated it to burning to disguise its lousy taste. The case actually helped prompt McDonald's to get its act together and invest in better coffee... which allowed it to earn back waaaaay more money than it lost in the case. See, lawsuits can make things better for everyone!)
Anyway, the lesson is that even ridiculous-sounding claims can illustrate real issues. Last week, we wrote about a lawsuit over a ECV (electric scooter) collision at Walt Disney World. That reopened a debate over the use of scooters and strollers on increasingly crowded pathways in the parks. This case, too, touches on an issue that has been provoking many theme park fans.
Peter Hall of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania details this new case, involving a teenaged girl who visited Dorney Park in September 2017.
While passing through a Halloween attraction, several of the park’s costumed ghouls approached, and the girl pleaded with them to back off because she did not want to be scared. When it appeared the monsters were retreating, the girl turned to continue through the attraction. The suit says that’s when a costumed employee ran up behind her and shouted loudly in her ear. Startled, the girl lunged forward and fell forcefully to the ground, suffering severe, permanent and debilitating injuries, the suit says. The suit doesn’t detail the injuries.
The suit alleged that Dorney Park and its parent company, Cedar Fair, were negligent for not honoring the girl's request not to be scared, as well as for not informing her or her mother about the option to purchase a "No Boo" necklace, for people who do not wish to be confronted by scareactors.
I can feel the disturbance in the Halloween Force, as thousands of haunt are trigged by all these claims. First, the "No Boo" necklace sounds like something straight out of a "Nathan For You" episode — a chance for a company to make extra money from people who don't actually want the product that they just paid the company to provide... namely, Halloween scares.
Halloween fans' biggest fear isn't a chainsaw-wielding scareactor emerging from the dark. It's that theme parks will neuter their beloved Halloween events, making them less scary to appeal to a wider audience of fans. This lawsuit enflames that fear, by threatening a $150,000 legal judgment against the park for scaring the heck out of people.
We live in an era of niche media. Websites, social media, and streaming services have enabled the creation of content serving a wider variety of topics and tastes than ever before. Theme parks have responded to things change by programming more special events and upsells — from Halloween scarefests to princess tea parties — all designed to appeal to an audience that wants a more tailored experience.
But theme parks do these things to increase their overall attendance and revenue. If a special event turns off more people than it attracts — or if it threatens to cost a company more money than it brings in — those special events and initiatives won't last.
That's the fear with Halloween scare events — that parks will begin to believe that they're better off with less-scary events that might elicit fewer complaints and appeal to a wider audience. As much as fans love these events for forcing them to confront their fears, complaints such as this lawsuit illustrate this one fear that no Halloween fan wants to face.Tweet
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