This column is intended to provide general information about the law. It is not a substitute for the advice
of an attorney who has analyzed the facts of your specific case. If you have personal concerns about
legal issues, you should consult with an attorney.
Q: Can Santa Claus sue me if he falls off my roof?
A: There is very little case law on this topic, implying that Santa has not engaged in many lawsuits.
Your duty to those who enter your property depends on their status as invitees, licensees, or
trespassers. Invitees may be on your premises through a specific invitation or through an invitation
implied by your conduct or by generally accepted practices. For instance, if you have a pest control
contract, the service providers have an ongoing invitation to enter the premises as part of their job.
Your duty to invitees is to exercise ordinary care and to keep the premises safe.
Licensees have no professional contract with you. Your friends and social guests have license to be on
your property. They assume some risk in being there, but you would still be responsible for injuries
resulting from your reckless negligence or willful acts.
Trespassers are people who enter your premises without any sort of invitation or permission for
the trespasser’s own benefit. Your duty to trespassers is to not lay booby-traps on your property or
purposely injure them.
Santa could not be considered a trespasser since he is not on your roof for his own benefit. All the
benefit is to you and your children. Presumably, if Santa entered the home of someone with no
children and left no goodies, he could be said to be doing it for his own amusement and therefore be a
trespasser, but Santa doesn’t do that.
Is Santa a licensee? He has no professional contract with you, but he’s not really there as your social
guest or houseguest since he only comes around if you’re asleep. Santa would probably be found to
be an invitee. True, he has no written contract with you, but you have probably engaged in conduct
that implies an open invitation: writing a letter to Santa asking for toys implies that he must enter your
premises to deliver said toys; laying out cookies implies that Santa is welcome to come into the home
to enjoy the cookies. Perhaps even displaying “nice” behavior would imply that you expect a visit from
So, be sure that your roof is free of hidden hazards like extension cords or negligently loose shingles
prior to Christmas Eve. Be sure that any embers in the fireplace are completely cooled and harmless
before you go to bed, and that your stocking and tree area is well-lit. (Christmas tree lights are sufficient
for Santa.) I feel safe in concluding that we can all depend upon Santa’s vast experience and magical
properties in avoiding danger, and extend my hope to all of you for a safe and peaceful holiday season.
Lisa Young is a licensed attorney practicing family law and wills and probate law in Travis and Hays
Counties. She was recognized as a Distinguished Scholar by The University of Texas, and holds a law
degree and a Master’s degree in Public Affairs. Lisa Young consults with clients by appointment at
Carpenter House in Far South Austin. She can be reached at 282-2100.