Solved by verified expert:Brief the case of: Griffin v. The Haunted Hotel, Inc., 242 Cal.App.4th 510 (2015).The case is attached below. NO FOOTNOTES or WORKS CITED/BIBLIOGRAPHY LISTS!!!!!! Case briefs are used to highlight the key information contained within a case for use within the legal community as court cases can be quite lengthy. It must contain proper Bluebook citations inside the text.When writing case briefs, all information must be properly cited. Make sure you are not copying and pasting from your source. Most of the material should be paraphrased; quotations should make up no more than 10% of the brief. Note: since the purpose to is highlight and summarize key information, merely copying and pasting from the case does not accomplish this goal. You must summarize the facts in your own words, using quotations sparingly.
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SCOTT GRIFFIN, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. THE HAUNTED HOTEL, INC., Defendant and Respondent.
COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT,
242 Cal.app.4th 510, 2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7591
October 23, 2015, Opinion Filed
SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: The Publication Status of this Document has been Changed by the Court from Unpublished to Published November 20, 2015 and is now reported at: 242 Cal.app.4th 510 [195 Cal.Rptr.3d 156].
PRIOR HISTORY: [*1] APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, No.
37-2013-00044186-CU-PO-CTL, Katherine A. Bacal, Judge.
CORE TERMS: haunted, trail, patron, chainsaw, summary judgment, scare, assumption of risk, attraction, inherent
risks, triable issue, scared, exit, risk of harm, recreational activity, reckless, chased, scary, chase, unreasonably, frightened, access road, started, scene, attended, sport, fun, chain, subjective, deposition, recklessly
JUDGES: NARES, J.; BENKE, Acting P. J., McDONALD, J. concurred.
OPINION BY: NARES, J.
In October 2011 Appellant Scott Griffin purchased a ticket to experience The Haunted Trail, an outdoor haunted house
type of attraction where actors jump out of dark spaces often inches away from patrons, holding prop knives, axes,
chainsaws, or severed body parts. After passing what he believed was the exit and “giggling and laughing” with his
friends about how much fun they had, Griffin unexpectedly was confronted by a final scare known as the “Carrie” effect–so named because, like the horror film Carrie, patrons are led to believe the attraction is over, only to be met by
one more extreme fright. This was delivered by an actor wielding a gas powered chainsaw (the chain had been removed), who approached Griffin, frightened him, and gave chase when Griffin ran away. Griffin was injured when he
fell [*2] while fleeing. Griffin sued The Haunted Hotel, Inc. (Haunted Hotel), which operates The Haunted Trail, alleging negligence and assault.
“Under the primary assumption of risk doctrine, there is no duty to eliminate or protect a plaintiff against risks that are
inherent in a sport or [recreational] activity.” (Calhoon v. Lewis (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 108, 115, 96 Cal. Rptr. 2d 394.)
The trial court granted Haunted Hotel’s motion for summary judgment, determining under the primary assumption of
risk doctrine Haunted Hotel did not breach any duty to Griffin.
We affirm. The risk that a patron will be frightened, run, and fall is inherent in the fundamental nature of a haunted
house attraction like The Haunted Trail. Moreover, on this record there is no evidence creating a triable issue Haunted
Hotel unreasonably increased the risk of injury beyond those inherent risks or acted recklessly.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. The Haunted Trail
2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7591, *
Haunted Hotel operates four Halloween attractions in San Diego County, including The Haunted Trail located in Balboa
Park. The Haunted Trail operates from September through October, ending on Halloween.
The Haunted Trail features actors in ghoulish costumes who frighten, startle and sometimes chase patrons amid loud
noises [*3] and flashing strobe lights in a one mile loop in Balboa Park. Patrons follow a narrow trail in the natural
park setting, passing from one horror set to the next, each telling a different gruesome story. Along the way, actors jump
out of dark spaces or spring from around corners, often inches away from patrons, holding bloody prop knives, axes or
other weapons, or a severed body part.
If a patron becomes frightened and runs away, one of the actors will often chase after the person. The Haunted Trail
played an orientation audiotape for every group of visitors who attended the attraction in 2011, which states:
“Our creatures will not grab you, however, they may accidentally bump into you. Oh, you will be scared sh-less and try
to run away, but in the end our creatures will chase you down like the chickens that you are!” 1
1 Griffin’s lawyers admitted the audiotape was played for “every” group of visitors who attended in 2011. However, Griffin testified in his
deposition he did not remember hearing it.
In 2011 the “Frequently Asked Questions” part of The Haunted Trail’s Web site stated, “[Y]ou will not be grabbed or
pushed,” and warned, “Running is the main cause of minor injuries. Make sure to follow [*4] the rules and DON’T run
and you should be fine!” Signs at the entrance stated, “Due to natural surroundings of the park the ground may be uneven with some obstacles such as tree roots, rocks, etc. Be careful.”
The parties do not dispute that the ticket Griffin purchased states, “This attraction contains high impact scares” and “is
not suitable for people with heart conditions or people prone to seizures; is not recommended for children under age 10;
and pregnant women, infants and children being carried will not be allowed entry.” The Haunted Trail instructs its employees to “stay away” if a child is crying, not to chase children at all, and to “stay clear of people who are crying.”
In 2011 The Haunted Trail employed uniformed off-duty San Diego police officers, a private security force, and an
emergency medical technician service to be on-site all weekend nights. All were present the night Griffin attended.
Photographs on The Haunted Trail Web site featured costumed actors holding chainsaws. Griffin purchased his ticket
on the Web site. The chainsaw-wielding actors are the most popular feature of The Haunted Trail. The chainsaw scenes
have been mentioned in radio advertising or shown [*5] on television.
At the final scene along the trail, three people with prop chainsaws–gas powered chainsaws with the chains removed–menace patrons as they walk to an opening in the temporary chain link fence, covered with a dark screen, that
runs along the edge of the trail. That opening appears to be the exit, the end of the attraction.
What follows is something Haunted Hotel calls the “Carrie” effect, a final scare patterned after the closing scene of the
horror movie Carrie when the audience is led to believe that the terror is over, only to be given one last jolting scare.
When patrons have walked through the opening in the fence, they regroup on the park access road, thinking the attraction is over. But this is a fake exit. The access road is controlled by Haunted Hotel. A chainsaw-wielding actor with a
gas powered chainsaw suddenly appears, starts the chainsaw, and charges at the patrons–providing a final scare. Although the chain has been removed from the chainsaw, it “still has the whole sound, the whole smell of a chain saw, and
that’s what gives the effect of–people think it’s a real chain saw.” During this last encounter, patrons are most prone to
run away, with the actor giving [*6] chase.
The access road is visible to surrounding public space. Families “actually come and camp out and watch” because “it’s
fun to see when someone gets freaked out when a chain saw comes and chases an individual.”
In the 14 years The Haunted Trial has been operating, over 250,000 patrons have attended the event. In the three years
preceding Griffin’s incident, between 10 and 15 people fell while running from the chainsaw-wielding actor in this final
scare. Three people fell the night Griffin attended. None of the 15 who fell reported being injured.
B. Griffin’s Incident
2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7591, *
Near Halloween in October 2011 Griffin learned some friends were planning to attend The Haunted Trail. Griffin had
previously attended Knott’s “Scary” Farm and possibly “Fright Night” at Universal Studios. He had been to Balboa Park
before, but he had never heard of The Haunted Trail and knew nothing about the attraction.
Griffin and his group entered the attraction, but Griffin recalled little about the preliminaries, acknowledging that he
was “not paying attention” to his surroundings, but rather “laughing, visiting” with friends. As he walked through The
Haunted Trail, Griffin was, to use his own words, “scared pretty [*7] darn good.” He was not chased along the trail
and said “it was fun.”
At the final scene along the trail, Griffin heard chainsaws. At first, he was “shocked,” but he just “walk[ed] through . . . I
knew we were almost ending . . . we had already had so much fun already through the thingy, so it was okay.”
After this final scene, Griffin headed for the “gate,” which he believed was an exit, “ending the experience.”
“[T]here was clearly, to me, an exit that the event is over because inside everything is roped off, you are on a path. It’s
very clear where you’re going. And the gates and the exit, to me, were clear that we were done with the experience.”
Griffin and his friends were standing on the access road, “giggling and laughing” and saying “how fun was that?” This
area, a “well-lit even surface,” is actually controlled by The Haunted Trail and is part of the show
Griffin testified in deposition that suddenly, a “gentleman” started a chainsaw and “came at me with it.” Griffin tried to
“back away from him” but “he just kept following me.” Griffin asked the man to “stop” and when he did not stop, Griffin “started running away because it felt unsafe with his chainsaw because he was pointing it at me . . . [*8] .”
Griffin testified, “I started to try to get away from him, and, boy, he seemed to really enjoy that” and “I really got scared
because he was really at me, with me at it, he was unlike the other people. And we had already exited the venue. He was
right into my space.” “He was literally coming at me. He selected me . . . . [¶] . . . He was pointing it [chainsaw] right at
me and it was live and active; you could literally smell the gas . . . hear the sound and everything. Yes, I felt like he was
handling that very dangerous [sic]. . . . [¶] . . . [¶] It was a real chainsaw. . . . [¶] . . . [¶] . . . This gentlemen did not keep
a safe distance . . . and the more I backed away, the more he followed me. I asked him to stop; he wouldn’t. I started
running. He was literally running after me. And I really felt unsafe. And then I started getting really fearful that something was going to happen, because here’s some stranger–I don’t even know who he is–with a live, active chainsaw
running after me with it. [¶] . . . [¶] . . . I was fearful for my safety big time.” “I really felt that he could have tripped,
that chainsaw could have fell down, and I could dangerously [sic] get hurt by it. That’s [*9] what I felt.”
While being chased and running an unspecified distance, Griffin fell, injuring his wrist. In deposition, Griffin acknowledged “it is the point of The Haunted Trail to scare the people who attend” and “not many people would attend the event
if it were not scary.”
A representative of The Haunted Trail testified in deposition, “you scare the hell out of them as much as you possibly
can, and that’s what they’re paying us for, that’s why they come.” He stated Griffin “was never in harm. . . . He ran. He
chose to run. You can’t chase a human that doesn’t run. If he had just stood there and said ‘stop,’ then it’s not fun. You
move on. You scare somebody else.”
C. The Trial Court Grants Summary Judgment
In March 2014 Griffin filed a first amended complaint against Haunted Hotel for general negligence, negligent hiring,
training, supervision, and retention, and assault. Overruling a defense motion to strike, the trial court allowed the
amended complaint to allege punitive damages, in part because “the FAC [first amended complaint] now alleges that
defendant trained employees to chase patrons beyond the exit.”
In June 2014 the Haunted Hotel filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting [*10] “the primary assumption of risk
doctrine, as recently applied by the California Supreme Court in Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, L.P. (2012) 55 Cal.4th 1148, 150
Cal. Rptr. 3d 551, 290 P.3d 1158 [(Nalwa)], operates as a bar against claims by the patrons of ‘scare’ attractions or
‘haunts’ for injuries allegedly sustained as a result of being frightened, startled, chased or otherwise menaced during the
activity by actors who are employed to do just that.”
Griffin filed opposition, asserting the “fatal flaw” in Haunted Hotel’s theory was “Mr. Griffin was not injured while on
the Haunted Trail, and the reason why he ran had nothing to do with being scared by an actor’s fantasy role play.” (Emphasis omitted.) Citing Luna v Vela (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 102, 113, 86 Cal. Rptr. 3d 588, Griffin’s lawyers also as-
2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7591, *
serted, “the primary assumption of the risk doctrine does not apply in context where a Defendant is accused of engaging
in oppressive, malicious or reckless conduct.” (Emphasis omitted.)
At the hearing, the trial court focused on whether the Carrie effect scare occurred inside the attraction:
“The Court: Well, let me ask you this because it appeared to me that major issue is whether the gate was, in fact, an exit
and the end of the show or whether the gate was what appears, at least defendants are arguing, a fake exit and all part of
the show. [¶] [*11] And if that’s the case and the plaintiff was still within the bounds of what was controlled by defendant, that’s the experience he paid for. . . . [¶] . . . [¶] . . . That’s the question. Where does the experience end?”
After oral argument, the court granted the motion for summary judgment, stating, “the argument that defendant went
beyond its boundaries is not supported by the evidence. It appears all the activities took place on and within defendant’s
boundaries, although plaintiff was unaware of that fact. That awareness, that subjective awareness is not what is required. And given further what the inherent nature of this event was, it does not appear inappropriate or actionable.” In
its order, the trial court added:
“Patrons of The Haunted Trail pay for the opportunity to be scared and The Haunted Trail, by design, is scary. Plaintiff
argues the assumption of risk doctrine does not apply because he was chased after he believed the event was over and
‘even football fields have sidelines.’ [Citation.] However, the doctrine ‘does not depend on the particular plaintiff’s subjective knowledge or appreciation of the potential risk.’ Knight[ v. Jewett (1992)] 3 Cal.4th [296,] 316, 11 Cal. Rptr. 2d
2, 834 P.2d 696 [(Knight)]. [¶] . . . [W]hile the plaintiff believed [*12] he had gone through an exit he was still within
the scary experience he purchased. The risk that plaintiff might be scared enough to run away is inherent in the fundamental nature of a haunted house attraction. [¶] . . . [W]ho would want to go to a haunted house that is not scary?”
The court entered judgment in favor of The Haunted Hotel. Griffin timely appealed.
I. Standard of Review
“We review a grant of summary judgment de novo and decide independently whether the facts not subject to triable
dispute warrant judgment for the moving party as a matter of law.” (Luna v. Vela, supra, 169 Cal.App.4th at p. 107.)
“Determining whether the primary assumption of risk doctrine applies is a legal question to be decided by the court.”
(Beninati v. Black Rock City, LLC (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 650, 656, 96 Cal. Rptr. 3d 105 (Beninati).)
II. The Primary Assumption of Risk Doctrine
Under the primary assumption of risk doctrine, an operator of a business that provides a recreational activity posing
inherent risks of injury has no duty to eliminate those inherent risks. (Nalwa, supra, 55 Cal.4th at p. 1162.) Knight, supra, 3 Cal.4th 296 illustrates the concept in the context of a ski resort, explaining that because moguls on a ski run are
an inherent risk of the sport, a resort operator would have no liability to a plaintiff who fell while skiing over a mogul.
(Id. at pp. 315-316.)
In Nalwa, supra, the Supreme [*13] Court held primary assumption of risk is not limited to sports, but also applies to
other recreational activities “‘involving an inherent risk of injury to voluntary participants . . . where the risk cannot be
eliminated without altering the fundamental nature of the activity.'” (Id. at p. 1156.) In Nalwa, the Court applied primary
assumption of risk where the plaintiff was injured on an amusement park bumper car ride.
Primary assumption of risk has been applied in other recreational contexts. For example, in Beninati, supra, 175
Cal.App.4th 650, the court applied the doctrine where the plaintiff, who attended the Burning Man Festival, was himself
burned when he tripped and fell into the remnants of the burning man effigy. The court also applied primary assumption
of risk in Amezcua v. Los Angeles Harley-Davidson, Inc. (2011) 200 Cal.App.4th 217, 132 Cal. Rptr. 3d 567, which
involved a noncompetitive group motorcycle ride.
Which risks are inherent in a given recreational activity is suitable for resolution on summary judgment. (Nalwa, supra,
55 Cal.4th at p. 1158.) Such a determination is a legal question within the province of the courts and is reached from
common knowledge. (Luna v. Vela, supra, 169 Cal.App.4th at p. 110.) The court may also consider its “own or common experience with the recreational activity . . . and documentary evidence introduced by the parties on a motion for
summary judgment.” [*14] (Nalwa, supra, 55 Cal.4th at p. 1158.)
2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7591, *
Under the primary assumption of risk doctrine, “a court need not ask what risks a particular plaintiff subjectively knew
of and chose to encounter, but instead must evaluate the fundamental nature of the [recreational activity] and the defendant’s role in or relationship to that [activity] to determine whether the defendant owes a duty to protect a plaintiff
from the particular risk of harm.” (Avila v. Citrus Community College Dist. (2006) 38 Cal.4th 148, 161, 41 Cal. Rptr. 3d
299, 131 P.3d 383 (Avila).)
Primary assumption of risk does not provide absolute immunity. A participant and an owner/operator still owe certain
duties of care. Such duties vary according to the role played by particular defendant involved in the activity. (Luna v.
Vela, supra, 169 Cal.App.4th at p. 109.) For example, a batter, i.e., a participant in a baseball game, has no duty to
avoid carelessly throwing a bat after hitting a ball–such conduct being an inherent risk of the sport. However, the ballpark owner, because of his or her different relationship to the sport, may have a duty to take reasonable measures to
protect spectators from carelessly thrown bats. (Ibid.)
Owners and operators “owe participants the duty not to unreasonably increase the risk of injury” beyond those inherent
in the activity. (Nalwa, supra, 55 Cal.4th at p. 1162; Fazio v. Fairbanks Ranch Country Club (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th
1053, 1059, 183 Cal. Rptr. 3d 566 (Fazio).)
Coparticipants in a recreational activity [*15] may be liable if their conduct is “so reckless as to be totally outside the
range of the ordinary activity” involved. (Knight, supra, 3 Cal.4th at p. 320.) Conduct is “‘”totally outside the range of
ordinary activity involved”‘” if prohibiting that conduct would “‘”neither deter vigorous participation”‘” in the activity
nor “‘”otherwise fundamentally alter”‘” its nature. (Towns v. Davidson (2007) 147 Cal.App.4th 461, 470, 54 Cal. Rptr.
In moving for summary judgment, Haunted Hotel had the burden to establish: (1) primary assumption of risk applied to
this recreational activity; and (2) the undisputed evidence established as a matter of law Haunted Hotel did not (i) unreasonably increase the risk of harm beyond those risks inherent in the Haunted Trail; and (ii) intentionally or recklessly
injure Griffin. (Fazio, supra, 233 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1060, 1063.)
III. The Trial Court Properly Entered Summary Judgment
A. Primary Assumption of Risk Applies to the Haunted Trail
The trial court correctly applied primary assumption of risk to the recreational activit …
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