The lawsuit was filed June 7 in Ottawa County Circuit Court on behalf of Stacey Sidock, who suffered a broken leg in the Haunted Hall's coffin drop, said her attorney, Robert Chessman, also of Muskegon. She seeks more than $25,000 in damages.
Sidock and her 11-year-old daughter visited the Haunted Hall — which was located on VanWagoner Road in Spring Lake Township — on Oct. 14, 2011. Once inside, they were instructed to get into a coffin, which was the entrance to the Haunted Hall.
“She was frightened of getting into a closed space like that,” Chessman said. “She decided she wanted to leave the tour, but was told this was the only way out.”
Sidock says she was told that the bottom of the coffin was stable and would not open. One person jumped up and down inside the coffin to demonstrate its stability, Chessman said, so Sidock and her daughter climbed inside.
The lawsuit notes that the coffin lid closed and the bottom “dropped” open, and Sidock fell onto a slide, and then slid to the bottom of the slide.
“In the process of falling and sliding, (Sidock) sustained the injuries and the damages,” the lawsuit says.
(BELOW: Read the actual lawsuit filed in court in the Related File: Copy of the lawsuit.)
Sidock's daughter was not injured, Chessman said.
The attorney said his client incurred about $20,000 in medical expenses because of the incident. He said it has also affected her ability to work.
“She’s been trying to work as much as she can, but her work status is in jeopardy because of this,” Chessman said.
Chessman said Sidock was open to settlement discussions, but the representative for the Haunted Hall’s insurance provider did not make a settlement offer.
“They sent me a letter saying, ‘We don’t think we have any responsibility,’” Chessman said.
Michael Brower, an attorney who is a board member of the Western Youth Leadership Development that oversees the Haunted Hall, said they were aware of a possible civil suit being filed. He said the board has yet to be served the lawsuit, and he can’t comment on it.
“Everything is in our insurance company’s hands at this point,” Brower said Wednesday.
A member of a long-time scouting family in Spring Lake, Brower said this is the first complaint they’ve had since Boy Scout Troop 14 started the Haunted Hall at Spring Lake Village Hall in the late 1990s.
“I believe that our excellent safety track record for the past 13 years speaks for itself,” he said.
Brower has been involved in the Halloween event the entire time, starting out as a Boy Scout. The Haunted Hall has raised money for several charities, and the group also does a canned food drive in conjunction with it.
“It’s been wildly successful,” Brower said. “We have collected several tons of food that has been donated to Love INC."
Now that the lawsuit has been filed, Chessman said the complaint will be served to the defendant, and then attorneys will meet before deciding the next step. Chessman said he would continue to work for a settlement.