In 2012, I moved from the backwoods of Oregon to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Finally living in a city, I was so excited because I thought I would finally get my first trick-or-treaters! I purchased a plastic pumpkin candy bucket and two huge bags of candy from the local Food Lion, and when October 31st rolled around, I was ready. Sadly, I did not take into account that I lived at the end of a dark street, and unfortunately went another three years of eating all the candy by myself (or maybe not so unfortunate).
Well, this year I live in new neighborhood, and I have high hopes for some cute costumes containing sugar-hyped kids. In my excitement, I got to thinking, what if one of kids (or chaperones) got hurt on my property? Could I be held liable?
If you decide to turn on your porch light this year, be aware that your action is considered giving implied permission to trick-or-treaters to lawfully enter your property. As a possessor of land, you owe a duty to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of your premises for the protection of lawful visitors.  The duty of reasonable care requires that a landowner not unnecessarily expose lawful visitors to danger andprovide such visitors with warnings of hidden hazards of which the landowner or occupier has actual or constructive knowledge. This duty also requires a landowner to make a reasonable inspection of the property to ascertain the existence of hidden dangers.
Inspect Your Property
As a homeowner or tenant, it is important to take the time to inspect your property prior to October 31st. Make sure that your walkways are clear of debris and remove or fix all potential hazards. Prepare as if you are expecting the world’s most clumsy kid, and check for all conceivable injury dangers such as:
- Loose bricks possibly uprooted by pesky gremlins
- Yard art such as black cats or other decorations that could trip or poke visitors approaching your front door
- Holes, rocks, or broken mirrors on the lawn (sorry, there’s nothing we can do for your impending 7 years’ of bad luck)
- Low hanging branches and flying witches
- Poorly maintained sidewalks and bubbling caldrons
No matter if you are eagerly awaiting candy beggars or you plan to hide in the dark, have a fun-filled holiday! And don’t let neither a Halloween lawsuit nor a marauding goblin steal your candy corn buzz.
1Nelson v. Freeland, 507 S.E.2d 882 (N.C. 1998).
2In 1998, North Carolina abolished the distinction between a duty owed to an invitee and a duty owed to license, and now the same duty is owed to all lawful visitors. Id.
3Rolan v. N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 756 S.E.2d 788 (N.C. Ct. App. 2014); McCorkle v. North Point Chrysler Jeep, Inc., 703 S.E.2d 750 (N.C. App. 2010); Grayson v. High Point Development Ltd. Partnership, 625 S.E.2d 591 (N.C. App. 2006).
4McCorkle v. North Point Chrysler Jeep, Inc., 703 S.E.2d 750 (N.C. App. 2010).
Published by Shiann Schmidt on October 26, 2015