On May 19, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from a denial of an injunction to close down a haunted house operating in an area zoned residential as the appeal was “moot” because the haunted house had closed.
Two Justices (Melton and Carley) dissented noting that Halloween comes around every year and that res judicata or collateral estoppel would allow the operation of the haunted house every year in perpetuity without the City being able to challenge it.
Keep reading for GZB’s summary of City of Comer v. Seymour, Supreme Court of Georgia, Case No. S08A0557, decided May 19, 2008.
Timothy Seymour opened a haunted house on his property for Halloween. His property was zoned by the City of Comer as residential. On opening day, the City moved for a temporary restraining order and an injunction to shut down the haunted house because it violated the zoning code prohibiting “special events” from being held in residential areas. The trial court denied the temporary restraining order and Seymour opened his haunted house.
A final hearing was held on the City’s motion for an injunction was held the day before the last weekend the haunted house would be open. After the conclusion of evidence, the trial court denied the City injunctive relief. The City appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Halloween came and went and Seymour closed his haunted house.
The Supreme Court dismissed the City’s appeal finding that the appeal was moot because any resolution of the appeal would require an abstract determination unrelated to any existing facts because the haunted house was no longer in operation.
Two Justices (Melton and Carley) dissented because Halloween occurs every year. The dissent observed that if Seymour decides to open another haunted house at the same location, the City would be barred by res judicata or collateral estoppel leaving it without any ability to challenge the haunted house. The dissent argued that the dismissal of the appeal is inappropriate because it only ensures that the underlying issues – the operation of a haunted house in an area zoned residential – may recur in perpetuity while constantly evading substantive justice.
Without much explanation, the majority opinion dismissed the dissent stating that if Seymour or others attempted to operate a haunted house or a similar “special event” in a residential area of the City “it would not necessarily evade judicial review.”