Thursday, March 22, 2012

Featured Case Update: Stambovsky v. Ackley

In a post last September, this blog featured the contracts case of Stambovsky v. Ackley - the Nyack, NY Haunted House case.  The Court's decision that the Seller was required to disclose to her Buyer the belief that the house was haunted, was premised primarily on an article that the Seller wrote for Reader's Digest magazine entitled, Our Haunted House on the Hudson. Now, thanks to the Halloween Addict Blog, that 1977 Readers Digest article is available for viewing.  Thank you, Halloween Addict, for sharing this important classroom resource.

Further update: An important part of the court's rationale included:

From the perspective of a person in the position of plaintiff herein, a very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: "Who you gonna' call?" as a title song to the movie "Ghostbusters" asks. Applying the strict rule of caveat emptor to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale. . . . In the interest of avoiding such untenable consequences, the notion that a haunting is a condition which can and should be ascertained upon reasonable inspection of the premises is a hobgoblin which should be exorcised from the body of legal precedent and laid quietly to rest.

The fact that a house's reputation for being haunted may not have been easily discoverable upon inspection was likely true in 1991.  But is it still true today? A potential buyer need not employ Ghostbusters but may exercise a simple Google search to discover the Seller's boasts of living in a haunted hosts. Is a "Google search" a reasonable requirement to impose by law on the Buyer, rather than imposing a duty to disclose on the Seller?

Photo credit: Halloween Addict Blog

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