Durand Tyler of Anchorage, Alaska, has filed a wrongful death suit against a St. Louis haunted house on behalf of his daughter, whose death he claims was a result of the haunted house’s atmosphere triggering her asthma into a fatal attack.
15-year-old Bellville resident Brittney Holmes was visiting the attraction, called The Darkness, in October of 2009 as part of Halloween celebrations. During what should have been a routine visit, the fog machines and sickly vapors triggered a severe asthma attack, and she was unable to use her rescue inhaler for undetermined reasons. As a result of the attack, she fell into a persistent vegetative state from which she never recovered. She died on November 12, 2010, without waking.
In an unusual turn, Brittney’s mother had also filed a personal injury suit, independently of Tyler’s motion. Attorneys involved in the cases have mentioned that the two cases may be consolidated, though this is not definitely decided.
The president of Halloween Productions, Larry Kirchner, would not comment on the case directly when contacted, and his attorney could not be reached by phone. However, the Haunted House Association trade organization released statements saying that haunted houses are extremely safe and rigorously-policed for fire code and freedom of movement compliance. Further, the haunted house in question is on record as having signs that people with respiratory problems should be cautious about entering and think about staying outside due to conditions in the house.
Brittney had suffered from asthma from the time she was 4 years old, and was allergic to a variety of things, ranging from nuts to mildew and dust. These latter might make her parents’ case more problematic, given the nature of the warning signs that were posted. At issue is whether the signs were prominently enough displayed to make the warnings reasonable, or if they were even seen at all before she entered the haunted house.