If Santa is injured coming down my chimney, am I liable?

  • December 5, 2023
  • Blog

It’s the Christmas season and visions of sugar plums may be dancing in our heads. But you also may be wondering – what if Santa Claus gets hurt coming down my chimney on Christmas Eve? Will I be liable for his damages?

Santa's feet coming out of the chimney

Luckily, your friendly neighborhood lawyer is here to answer that question for you! The subject of premises liability can be a complicated one, but I’m here to break it down as simply as possible.

We owe different duties to different people

When it comes to premises liability, we owe different duties to different people depending on why they are on our property. The three classifications we look to are invitees, licensees, or trespassers. But what does that mean?

  • Licensee: When a visitor enters the property with the express or implied consent of the landowner or occupier for the visitor’s own convenience or benefit, they are considered a licensee. The landowner or occupier owes a duty to the licensee to warn of a dangerous condition which they have knowledge or notice of.
  • Trespasser: A trespasser is one who unlawfully enters the land of another. The landowner or occupier cannot intentionally or willfully injure the trespasser, but they owe no duty to keep the premises safe for them.
  • Invitee: If a landowner or the person who occupies the land extends an invite to a visitor, and the visitor enters based on that invitation, that person is an invitee. The landowner or occupier owes that visitor a duty of ordinary care to maintain the premises in a reasonable and safe condition. They also owe a duty to warn the invitee of any hidden dangers on the premises.

santa claus looking shocked

Is Santa a licensee, trespasser, or invitee?

It is pretty easy to rule out Santa as a licensee. He is not entering your home for his own benefit – on the contrary, he is bringing you toys and goodies!

The argument can be made that Santa is a trespasser. This would be especially true if you are of a different religion or don’t celebrate Christmas. The absence of Christmas décor would imply you do not want him to visit and are not welcoming him into your home. Therefore, he would likely be considered a trespasser under these circumstances.

However, in contrast, the argument could be made that if you celebrate Christmas and have holiday decorations out, especially those stockings hung by the chimney with care, you are inviting Santa Claus into your home.

Santa delivering gifts is a normal and expected part of the Christmas tradition, and it would be reasonable to assume he would visit on Christmas Eve. This argument would be even stronger if you left out milk and cookies for jolly old Saint Nick.

Santa holding a plate of cookies

But am I liable if he’s hurt coming down my chimney?

If Santa is considered a trespasser, you would not be liable unless you left out specific traps to hurt him. Therefore, unless you have a little Kevin McCallister on your hands, you are probably not liable for any injuries Santa sustains coming down your chimney.

snowy holiday townIf Santa is considered an invitee, he must prove there was a defect in your chimney that caused him harm, not simply that he bumped into something the wrong way on his way down. He then must prove that you either knew or should have known about that defect.

Next, he has the burden of proving that an ordinarily careful and prudent person would have anticipated an injury as a result of not fixing the defect. This would be a difficult burden to meet. Most people don’t examine their chimneys for defects on a regular basis, and they aren’t expected to.

Further, the defects they are looking for are related to smoke exhaust and not someone using it for entry and exit. Finally, since a chimney isn’t usually used as an egress to the house, it isn’t foreseeable that someone would be injured in it.

However, a good plaintiff’ attorney may be able to argue it was foreseeable that Santa was to come down your chimney. They’d argue that you should have taken every precaution to make sure it was safe for him to do so. Ultimately, the question would be up to a jury to decide. As much as I hate to do this to you, when it comes to the question of whether you would be liable if Santa is injured coming down your chimney, the answer is: it depends.

If you or someone you know was injured on the property of another, the premises liability attorneys of Allen & Allen are happy to walk through the analysis above as it pertains to the unique circumstances of your case. Navigating the complicated world of premises liability claims in Virginia without the assistance of a professional can have disastrous consequences. Contact us for a free consultation at 1-866-388-1307.