The Case of the Haunted House

Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D. 2d 254 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991).

Haunted House

Haunted House at Disneyland Paris by Sean MacEntee

If you didn’t get to this one as a 1L, you’ll want to read it now, if only for this quote: “as a matter of law, the house is haunted.”

The plaintiff contracted to purchase a home without knowing its local reputation as a haunted house. The former homeowner reported her encounters with ghosts in stories in Readers’ Digest and local newspapers. One of the articles described the house as “a riverfront Victorian (with ghost).” When the buyer found out the home’s reputation, he sued to rescind the contract.

The appellate court considered the difficult case and, in doing so, managed to quote the ghost from Hamlet and the theme from Ghostbusters, make a “ghost of a chance” pun, and use the word “poltergeist” no fewer than five times.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that haunting is a condition to ascertain upon a reasonable inspection as “a hobgoblin which should be exorcised from the body of legal precedent and laid quietly to rest.” The court ultimately held that the seller had a duty to disclose the haunted condition of the property, especially because she did so much to publicize the ghosts while she owned the house.

Bonus: The case gives you a rundown of the duty of a seller to disclose conditions to a buyer, ghostly or otherwise.

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One Response to The Case of the Haunted House

  1. Evan Guthrie says:

    One of the best cases in property law. Amazing that this is still the practice for most residential real estate transactions

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