Volunteer Fire Company Not Liable for Haunted Hay Ride-Related Injury.
Defense jury verdict in a case involving an accident on a haunted hayride and a claim of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. We represented a volunteer fire company that hosts an annual haunted hayride event on its property to raise money. The plaintiff, then a 12-year-old, went to the hayride event as an invitee and was convinced by some teens to help scare people on the wagons at one of the skits in the woods. Without the knowledge of the fire company, the plaintiff joined the teens, got into costume, and began scaring people in wagons as they passed by their skit. She did this for about an hour, until one of the wagons allegedly ran over her left foot. The plaintiff sued the fire company. In defending the fire company, we raised the many defenses available under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. At trial, the plaintiff was required to prove either that the driver of the tractor pulling the wagon did so negligently, or that the accident resulted from a dangerous condition of real property in the care, custody and control of the fire company. The plaintiff suffered no fracture, but was soon diagnosed with CRPS—Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Her treatment regimen ran approximately seven to eight weeks. Thereafter, she returned to school and resumed playing sports. In the following years, the plaintiff suffered subsequent episodes of CRPS, sometimes in different limbs, sometimes associated with new trauma, but often not associated with any trauma at all. On causation and damages, the defense retained a renowned pediatric rheumatologist from CHOP. The jury was captivated by this doctor’s unique style and presentation. The initial demand was $450,000. At the time of the pre-trial, the demand was lowered to $250,000. A nominal amount was offered by the carrier for the fire company prior to trial. The jury found no negligence on the part of the fire company.