Q: Last Christmas my grandma was checking out a noise in her yard on Christmas Eve when she apparently got run over by Santa Claus. The hoof prints in the snow checked out as reindeer tracks, and the fact that they (and the sleigh tracks) started inexplicably 15 feet in front of where grandma got hit is really suspicious. The sheriff’s office was able to confirm that there were eight reindeer, all really small, and the sleigh they were pulling seemed to be miniature but heavily loaded and moving fast. We found a red hat and black glove next to her, but the best evidence was a page of Santa’s famous list that apparently fell out of the sleigh. Grandma has suffered serious personal injuries, and her medical bills are horrendous. I think she ought to sue but finding a lawyer has been impossible. What can I do?
A: This case raises a whole host of legal problems that are likely the reason no lawyer wants to take your grandma’s case.
The first problem is “jurisdiction.” Mr. Claus is reputedly not an Idaho resident, but the fact that he was involved in an accident in Idaho is sufficient under Idaho’s “long-arm statute” to allow Grandma to sue him here.
The second problem is service of process. You will need to serve the lawsuit papers on Mr. Claus. The cost of finding a process server willing to go to the North Pole might be prohibitive. If the process server can’t find Mr. Claus’s residence, you might be allowed to publish the summons in the newspaper. But which paper? The law requires you to use the newspaper he is most likely to read, and I doubt Mr. Claus reads the Post Register.
Next, your lawyer needs to be willing to weather the adverse publicity. This case is bound to be unpopular — I mean, suing the big man himself? That shouldn’t bother your attorney. Legal ethics entitle all people to representation, regardless of the popularity of their cause.
Other questions include whether Santa carries liability insurance, whether he should also be sued under his various aliases (Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, etc.), has he incorporated, and finally, does he even have any cash assets. (Would you need to take payment in toys? Is your attorney willing to accept toys as part of his contingency fee?)
If worse comes to worst, the Idaho Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service you might consult. They help people find competent Idaho lawyers. Meanwhile, best wishes in your lawsuit, and . . . Merry Christmas!
— The author, a licensed Idaho lawyer, wishes to remain anonymous. His grandchildren have already nicknamed him “Scrooge.”