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Home Alone: The Film and the Concept of Premises Liability

With the holiday season entering full swing, it’s only a matter of time before we start watching our favorite holiday films on television or breaking out the DVDs. One such classic film is Home Alone, the tale of a young Kevin McAllister who is left home alone by his family who accidentally forgets to bring him on a massive family vacation. While he’s home alone, his home is targeted by two bumbling and less-than-bright burglars, who attempt to break in and ransack the place in search of valuables. Kevin in turn defends his home with a number of cleverly-rigged traps and defense devices designed to inflict a ton of pain on the buffoons, before eventually leading to their arrest.

While the film is undoubtedly a comedy classic, the truth is that it ignores a pretty important lesson: the McAllisters could have found themselves in some serious legal trouble. Under premises liability laws, people who are not invited to your property but nonetheless enter it anyway are known as “trespassers,” and while they are not afforded the same rights to guaranteed protection that invited or implied visitors are, homeowners are not allowed to set “traps” to try and ward off trespassers or inflict harm on them. Doing so violates a trespasser’s right to safety, and could put the property owner at risk of a lawsuit should the trespasser choose to file one. Thus, the McAllister family could have found themselves in serious trouble had the burglars filed an injury lawsuit against them.

Here are a few examples of premises liability in the film.

Burn Injuries

One of the first traps the crooks come across is a doorknob that has been heated from the other side with a red-hot grill heating element. The unsuspecting crook then grabs the front door knob to check the door and subsequently sustains third-degree burns on his hand in the shape of the letter “M.” Premises liability law mandates that anything which could be a hot surface needs to be clearly indicated with proper warning signs to notify potential visitors of the hazard. The same could be said for a subsequent instance moments later when one of the criminals has their head scalded by a blow torch rigged to the rear door of the house.

Slip & Fall Injuries

At one point when both Harry and Marv, the criminals, manage to get inside the house, they meet up with each other at the bottom of the stairs where they both unwittingly run across a floor covered in small toy cars. This sends them simultaneously crashing to the floor in hilarious, perfectly-coordinated synchronization. However, should one or both of them have suffered a back or head injury from the incident, the McAllisters could have been liable for the consequences as a slip and fall injury.

Falling Object Injuries

Immediately upon getting back to their feet, Harry and Marv try to make a charge up the stairs to the second floor, only to be greeted by a paint can on a string smashing them right in the face. Falling objects can cause all types of injuries, including head and neck injuries that can take months or even years to heal. While they’re generally a lot more common in workplaces, they can still happen in homes, especially with heavy objects located at heights where they may not be the most secure.

Sharp Object Injuries

After Marv loses his shoes in an earlier incident, he later finds an open window where he can finally crawl his way into the house. However, in his relief to finally work his way inside, he forgets to look before he leaps and then smashes barefoot onto a number of glass Christmas lights and ornaments that then proceed to embed themselves in the exposed soles of his feet. Effective, yes, but a sharp object like this could be considered a trap because of their placement. While trespassers are not necessarily guaranteed safety from sharp objects on premises they are not invited to, the fact that they were left under an open window with the intent of causing harm to Marv on his way in could be argued that the harm was intentional, thus making the McAllisters liable for the injuries Marv sustains.

If you’ve been injured while on someone else’s property, you may have the right to compensation! Call Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC at (866) 675-4427 today to discuss your case, starting with a free initial consultation.