Lawsuit of the Day: Grandma’s Estate v. Santa and His Reindeer

[Editor’s Note: Recently, the Consumer Products Safety Commission warned that holiday injuries are on the rise – from falls from ladders while stringing lights and cuts from broken glass Christmas ornaments.  Given the potential for litigation arising from such holiday mishaps, our own Stuart Mauney, acting as a special correspondent to Abnormal Use, reports on a lawsuit recently filed by the Estate of Grandma against Santa Claus for grievous injuries suffered when she was allegedly run over by a reindeer.  If it isn’t fully true, it certainly ought to be, right?]

Grandma got run over by a reindeer.Walkin’ home from our house Christmas Eve.You can say there’s no such thing as Santa, but as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

In the complaint (which was of course filed in state court), the personal representative of the estate alleges that Grandma “had hoof prints on her forehead, and incriminatin’ Claus marks on her back.”  Word around the campfire is that the estate is also considering a negligence claim against the North Pole DMV, arguing “it never should issue a license to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.”

Santa Claus filed an answer to the complaint, asserting the affirmative defense of contributory negligence and noting that Grandma was, for lack of a better phrase, walking under the influence (“WUI”).  In the pleading, Claus claimed “she’d been drinking too much eggnog and we’d begged her not to go.”  Claus further alleges “she’d forgot her medication, and she staggered out the door into the snow.”  Claus is also expected to argue that Grandma failed to keep a proper lookout and was properly warned by Rudolph’s “very shiny nose.”

The Estate has made a claim for Grandma’s conscious pain and suffering, presumably for her slow and painful death before they “found her Christmas mornin’, at the scene of the attack.”  The Estate also has made a claim on behalf of Grandpa and various beneficiaries for wrongful death, alleging mental shock and suffering, wounded feelings, grief and sorrow, and loss of companionship.  Claus is expected to question the credibility of these claims during the discovery process, though in his answer, he offered only a general denial.

Despite our attempts at objective reporting of this legal news, we must confess that we’re also proud of Grandpa:

Now we’re also proud of Grandpa. He’s been takin’ this so well. See him in there watchin’ football. Drinkin’ beer and playing cards with Cousin Belle.

Further, Grandpa and the rest of the family do not appear to be suffering from “wounded feelings,” to the extent they debated “should we open up her gifts or send them back?”

We will keep you advised of any further developments in this case.  In the meantime, be careful out there!

[Editor’s Note: “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” was written by Randy Brooks and originally performed by the husband and wife team of Elmo Shropshire and Patsy Trigg way back in the halcyon days of 1979.]

Stuart Mauney can be followed on Twitter at @stuartmauney.


  1. Jennifer Eubanks says:

    Stuart – might want to check your witness list. I could have sworn Grandpa was playing cards with Cousin Mel, not Cousin Belle. Could be wrong, though. That family tree is sketchy.

    • Stuart Mauney says:

      Ms Eubanks: I have checked several online sources, all of which refer to “Belle.” I have no idea who Mel is.

  2. Of course it was filed in state court. Do you deny that Claus was doing business within the state? Perfectly proper.

    And the fact that Grandma may have tipped a bit of extra eggnog does not relieve your client of the duty to see what was there to be seen.

    • Stuart Mauney says:

      Eric: I agree state court is proper. As for the issue of Grandma’s own negligence, clearly her consumption of intoxicating beverages is relevant–and in SC, especially here in conservative Greenville County, where overindulging is frowned upon by many, she may not recover at all. A SC jury would probably find her to be more than 50% at fault and therefore barred from recovery. Perhaps different in California or other jurisdictions. And so we are clear, I am but a correspondent here–I do not represent either party. However, I would agree to mediate the case pro bono, as I have never met this Claus fellow in person.

  3. South Carolina law? When was the last time is snowed Christmastime in Greenville?

    Everyone knows Mr. Claus is a New Yorker:

    And here in NY, we stress personal responsibility. Jurors won’t be pleased to see some driver, Claus or not, trying to evade responsibility for negligent driving by blaming the victim.

    There isn’t any evidence that Grandma was standing/walking some place where she wasn’t supposed to be. And merely because she tippled a bit of egg nog won’t relieve Claus of his duty to drive safely.

    • Stuart Mauney says:

      I dont know why I find myself defending this Claus person–he’s an interloper from another continent! He probably did not even have a commercial drivers license. Still, the jurors will not be able to ignore the fact that Grandma forgot her medication, which combined with the eggnog, contributed to her STAGGERING out the door.

  4. I would think that the legitmate defense of contributory negligence would apply. Mr. Claus had been taken this exact same route and mode of travel for countless generations on this exact same night. All actions which “grandma” would have been keenly aware off due to the numerous notices placed in local newspapers as well as the individual notices sent specifically to her attention by various parties. Since she ventured out into the known path of travel of Mr. Claus, she forfeited the protections offered by a designated crosswalk. And while her estate may think that getting to a jury is the best thing for them, no jury is going to risk a lifetime of coal in their stockings or the wrath of billiopns of children the world over by delivering a guilty verdict to the jolly old man.