First the Grinch stole Christmas, and then he stole Christmas in the Village. The liability Grinch, that is. South Meriden’s annual holiday celebration, which goes back about 15 years, has been canceled because of liability issues that arose after a recent lawsuit, in which the city was named as a defendant.
It seems that a man was injured during a ride in a horse-drawn carriage at Christmas in the Village in 2012. It also seems that the city’s insurance did not cover the festival, potentially throwing the liability right into the lap of the Council of Neighborhoods, which the city says “organized, sponsored, scheduled, supervised, managed, conducted, and/or controlled” the event.
This may have resulted from a misunderstanding, but it seems unlikely that the Council of Neighborhoods, or the Christmas in the Village committee, could endure even one substantial court judgment. So now, without clear liability coverage, the council has canceled this year’s festivities and says it will not be setting up wreaths or flags for any holiday. “What if somebody falls from a ladder or someone gets hurt?” said Aprill Ouellette, co-chairwoman of the event committee.
This unfortunate state of affairs is not without precedent — how many play structures have been removed from parks and playgrounds in recent years simply because of fear of liability? But if cost is the issue, it’s also not without precedent for concerned citizens to raise the money to keep a local holiday tradition going. That’s exactly what happened when neighboring Wallingford stopped funding its annual Independence Day fireworks display, but leaders from both sides of the political aisle stepped up and saved the day with a fundraising drive.
That may not be necessary, as we understand that Council of Neighborhoods events are now covered under the city’s insurance policy. But if liability coverage by the city can’t be assured, perhaps something similar to Wallingford’s fireworks fund could be organized for South Meriden’s Christmas event.