Halloween Tips for Homeowners

A day and night full of mischief and superstition, Halloween (or All Hallows’ Evening) is an event celebrated by children throughout the country both old and young. While Halloween should be a time filled with laughs and candy, it is important that homeowners take the necessary steps to protect the youngsters knocking on their front doors and, in turn, themselves.

halloween-hero-1-aAs a homeowner partaking in Halloween, you have an obligation to make your premises safe for visitors. By following a few of the steps listed below, you may reduce the risk that one of those ghouls or goblins morphs into something far worse: a Plaintiff.


  1. Take a Walk: When you get home from work, imagine the steps that tonight’s trick-or-treaters will be taking as they approach your home and walk it out. Look for any areas that pose potential threats, such as uneven pavement or dimly-lit steps. Start at the typical entry way onto your property and walk it straight up your door.
  2. Light It Up: I know, I know. Halloween is supposed to be scary, dark, mysterious. But to avoid preventable trips and falls, it’s critical that your home and property is sufficiently lit. Notice a light bulb burnt out or dimming? Change it. No street lights or inadequate lighting for your front property? Purchase a high-powered outdoor spotlight or walkway lighting to illuminate your entire home.
  3. Put the Pups Inside: Sure, it would be great if everyone (including our furry friends) could enjoy the fun of Halloween and trick-or-treating. However, this can be a shocking experience for a dog, especially one that’s not particularly fond of people to begin with. If you’re not positive how your dog will react to costumed children “intruding” onto their property, don’t risk it. Keep your dog or dogs indoors and away from the front door where trick or treaters knock and give your pup a new chew toy or bone to keep him or her occupied.
  4. Key an Eye on that Jack-O-Lantern: A true cornerstone of Halloween décor is the carved pumpkin brightened by a candle. While it is obviously advisable to use battery-powered pumpkin lights (yep, really a thing), candles are the preferred, or at least majority, choice. As with any flame, it is essential you keep a watchful eye over the lit pumpkin, and put it away from areas where children are likely to gather. An ignored live flame and children in loose fitting clothing do not make a great match!
  5. Put Away the Rake: A cluttered yard is a dangerous yard on Halloween. Remember, you’re going to be having kids scrambling from house to house trying to grab up as much candy as possible before the party’s over. Do an inventory of your front yard and any other area that tonight’s visitors will be navigating and remove items that they could trip over, like rakes, lawn furniture, hoses, potted plants or your children’s toys or bicycles.

We hope these tips ensure you have a Safe and Happy Halloween. Preparation and a heightened awareness of potential hazards can go a long way to ensuring everyone makes it home safe and sound tonight.

If you are a homeowner involved in a Halloween-related dispute, it is important you are properly represented. The legal team at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell LLP are available to explain and defend your rights today.
Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.


Howland Hess O’Connell Attorney, Joseph Winning, Featured on University of Delaware’s Department of Communication Website

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Howland Hess O’Connell Attorney Joseph W. Winning was selected to be featured on the University of Delaware’s Department of Communication Website. The University of Delaware’s (“UD”) Department of Communication highlights alumni from an array of different professional fields to demonstrate to current and prospective Communication students what they can do with a degree in Communication from UD.

Mr. Winning graduated from the University of Delaware in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. While at Delaware, Joe worked in the Department of Communication and served as the Sports Director for the University’s student radio station, 91.3 FM WVUD. He graduated Summa Cum Laude. Click here to see the feature and find out more.

Joseph is admitted to practice law throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Howland Hess O’Connell congratulates Joseph on this achievement and thanks the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware for selecting him to be featured on its website.

To Be Young Again: The Legal Impact of Your 18th Birthday

In the majority of states throughout our country, including Pennsylvania, the 18th birthday is a major legal milestone. This is the age when an individual is legally deemed an adult (though some parents might argue otherwise!).

So, what does this mean for all those seniors in high school or freshman in college celebrating their transition into adulthood? For starters, they can now vote, enter into an enforceable contract, and join the armed forces. Sounds great, right? Well, like all things in life, there are both pros and cons.

This post is going to focus on two areas of law in which this firm practices and how turning 18 changes an individual’s outlook and rights legally. This is certainly not intended to be an all-encompassing overview, but instead a starting point of conversations for parents with their children and/or consideration for those of you making the jump into adulthood.

First, we’ll review the impact that your 18th birthday has when it comes to entering into contracts. In most states, a minor (anyone under the age of 18) is deemed incapable of entering into an enforceable contract through a legal doctrine known as incapacity (this doctrine also covers the mentally ill and very intoxicated persons in most states). As a minor, an individual receives blanket protection, the strongest available defense against the formation of a valid contract. That contract is deemed voidable at the discretion of the minor (NOT THE OTHER PARTY), such that the incapacitated party (the minor) could dis-affirm the contract. If they elected to dis-affirm the contract, any obligations they had via said contract would be waived.

NOTE: There is a slight exception here for the otherwise lock-solid protection against contract formation afforded to minors. While generally contracts entered into by individuals under the age of 18 are deemed voidable at the minor’s discretion, minors may still be on the hook financially for what are deemed “necessities”. Necessities are essentially those things you require in order to live: food, clothing, housing. For necessities, the minor may still be required to pay the fair market value of the product, but that’s not necessarily the contract price agreed to originally.

Once a minor crosses the threshold into adulthood, the court system will hold him or her responsible for the promises he or she made when they entered into the contract. As an adult, you will be legally responsible for paying the contract price called for in the agreement, and if you don’t, you can (and likely will) be sued. No longer do you carry the shield of youth, and those obligations you incur via contract will be legally enforceable.

The second area of discussion is the always hot-topic of underage drinking. While you may be deemed an adult in the eyes of the legal system in Pennsylvania, you are still barred from buying, drinking, possessing, or transporting any type of alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, liquor, etc.) until you reach the age of twenty-one (21). It’s an oft-asked question: “Why can I go to war for my country at 18 years old but not have a beer?” This is an easy answer: because the law says so!

Even at the ages of 18, 19, or 20, if you are found buying, drinking, or in possession of alcohol, an officer of the law absolutely has authority to cite you for underage drinking. You’re then looking at fines and potentially jail time. Not only that, you will most likely lose your right to operate a vehicle for 90 days and this transgression will appear on your criminal record.

Parents should also be wary in this arena, as those parents who allow individuals under the age of 21 to drink in their home may be liable both civilly and criminally.

Make no doubt about it, every birthday is a special one, including one’s 18th. But it is important to be aware that the game does indeed change one you’re deemed an adult.

If any of the above legal issues apply to you or your child, the legal team at Howland Hess O’Connell is available to assist you today. A free consultation can be arranged by calling (215)-947-6240. Also feel free to contact us online to schedule a meeting today.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.