Craig McCann | Trainee Solicitor

Grandma got run over by a reindeer: the legal implications

With Christmas approaching Jackson Boyd has been getting into the festive mood, from taking part in #elfontheshelf (featuring our now infamous and originally named Jackson and Boyd) to Christmas Jumper Day.

A group of us got talking (after 5pm) one day about Christmas and one of our colleague’s, who will remain nameless, commented that they didn’t like Christmas carols/songs. After several exclamations of “but surely you can’t not like [*insert name of Christmas carol/song*]?, another colleague said, “what about ‘Grandma got run over by a reindeer’?” For those reading who don’t know, the first verse goes like this:

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
She’d been drinking too much eggnog
And we begged her not to go
But she forgot her medication
And she staggered out the door into the snow
When we found her Christmas morning
At the scene of the attack
She had hoof-prints on her forehead
And incriminating Claus marks on her back

With the excellent standard of chat that exists in our office, we started talking about the legal issues that would arise if Grandma did actually get run over by reindeer, having drank too much eggnog and/or forgetting her medication.

Firstly, if her eggnog was alcoholic it is likely contributory negligence would be argued. This means that an award made to Grandma or her family, if any, would be reduced to reflect Grandma’s contribution towards the accident. This is due to Grandma having a duty to take care of her own safety. Contributory negligence could perhaps also be argued depending on the effect not taking her medication had on Grandma. Eggnog and medication aside, if any negligence could be argued on the part of Grandma – i.e. she had been on her phone or walked out onto the road without looking – the award would be reduced.

Secondly, on the assumption the hoof-prints on Grandma’s forehead were from a reindeer, would Santa be liable for Grandma’s injuries? If it could be proven Santa owned the reindeer responsible for Grandma’s unfortunate accident, under the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 Santa would be held strictly liable, as reindeer come under the definition of wild animals within the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

Whilst we could go on and comment on the family wondering whether to open up Grandma’s gifts (or send them back) or how Santa got a license in the first place, we do actually have work to do before finishing up for Christmas; however, on behalf of Jackson Boyd, we hope you have a happy Christmas and New Year when it comes.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Craig McCann

Craig McCann

Dispute Resolution Team

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