Robbins: Should Santa wear a mask?
This Christmas, should Santa wear a mask? I’ll leave the reindeer out of this for now; mostly they’re outside and, at most, they might be accomplices. Maybe, they’re another column.
But what about St. Nick? Should he?
What liabilities and risks might he face if he does not?
Let’s forget for just a moment about all that ho-ho-ho-ing. Should he one day find himself in a court of law, all that jolliness would count for squat.
First may be issues of quarantine and crossing international borders. There may be immigration officials to contend with and besides the legal mess he might stumble into, wouldn’t that possibly keep him from his appointed rounds? Might he not be tempted to apply the afterburners and deal with the consequences later? And if he did, he just might find himself a fugitive from justice and all that cheeks like roses stuff and cherry nose, and wink of his eye ain’t gonna cut it.
Trust me on this.
When he’s out in the fresh air, things will probably be fine. But what about when he shimmies down the chimney? In those jurisdictions with mandatory mask laws, if he doesn’t wear one, what possibilities might he be opening himself up to?
There are places too — and this differs from one country to another and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with the borders of each nation — gatherings beyond a certain size, or those between unrelated parties, are verboten.
Is he to keep track of every rule and regulation encircling the globe? And as you know, if you’ve ever watched a legal thriller, in this country anyway, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Even, presumably, if you’re Santa.
If he infects someone — mask or no mask — I worry about him being sued. Especially if he has knowingly violated laws, ordinances, or regulations. Might his liabilities be bootstrapped in that knowing what he was doing was the height of recklessness? Could he be sued for gross negligence or intentional misconduct? And that is just the civil side of things. Reckless endangerment or God forbid manslaughter charges could await him.
I don’t know about you, but the image of St. Nick lolling behind bars while Donner, Blitzen, and the rest of them graze behind the jailhouse just doesn’t sit well with me. Rudolph or not, I doubt any of them would be exactly up for reindeer games.
Even if Santa escaped hard time, might not sanctions be imposed? If civil damages were awarded against him, would there be funds enough for next year’s toys? Might he not be ordered to remediate the homes that he contaminated with his virus-laced, pipe-stained breath?
All of this might clog up the courts for years!
I worry too about his welfare. Besides the risk of his own infection, if he comes into the zillion homes he visits with a mask, might he not be fairly mistaken for a burglar? Yes, I know about the Santa suit and all, but isn’t it true that he waits until dark to visit when the kiddies are nestled snuggly in their beds?
What if someone hears a noise and stumbles upon a fat, bemasked man in his living room and the groggy homeowner perceives a threat? What if, imitating his best Clint Eastwood, his instinct is to fire first and to ask questions later. Wouldn’t the “make my day law” protect him? And even if it didn’t, might it not then be too late?
Let’s presume now that Santa’s injured but, except for COVID wearing out our first responders, he requires medical attention. Whoa, this presents a whole new set of issues. What if the hospital is full and there’s no room at the inn? Could Santa, when he’s better, sue? And what if, he is let in but contracts the virus while he’s there? Besides the risk to his well-being, might damages flow from the hospital’s failure of its duty to make sure that we was safe?
Another thing that deserves at least a mention is the issue of casualty. Let’s say someone in East Peru, Iowa comes down with something. Could s/he pin it on Santa? Might s/he not have gotten that “something” from someone else?
Maybe, just maybe, there was some kissing beneath the mistletoe? Experts would be required to testify that the plaintiff’s exposure to the Jolly Elf was so limited, he could not have been the cause. But other experts would line up to say otherwise.
Lastly, there are issues of coming to the nuisance and contributory negligence. If you leave the damn cookies and milk out, aren’t you inviting your own trouble?
This whole thing is a mess.
Maybe this year, Santa just ought to stay home and binge on Hallmark Christmas movies.
This year, it just might have to wait.
If he braves it, should Santa wear a mask? Whether he does or doesn’t is up to him, I suppose. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t! We’ll see how it all shakes out.
One thing that I’m sure of though, is that he’d surely join me in wishing a happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices Of Counsel in the Vail Valley with the Law Firm of Caplan & Earnest, LLC. His practice areas include: business and commercial transactions; real estate and development; family law, custody, and divorce; and civil litigation. Mr. Robbins may be reached at 970/926.4461 or at his e-mail address: Rrobbins@CELaw.com. His novels, "How to Raise a Shark (an apocryphal tale)" and "The Stone Minder’s Daughter," are currently available at Amazon.com.
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