Law and the Multiverse Holiday Special – Easter Edition

Many of our readers might remember the first Law and the Multiverse Holiday Special, which analyzed the legal issues surrounding Santa Claus.  This time around we’re going to take a brief look at the Easter Bunny (who, along with Santa Claus, is technically a DC comics character).

I. Intelligent Bunnies

As with Santa Claus, a big issue for the Easter Bunny is trespass.  Entering other people’s property and leaving eggs definitely fits the bill for the tort of trespass to land.  Now, with Santa Claus there was an easy answer to this problem: the home owners clearly invited Santa Claus to enter their property, as demonstrated by the stockings, milk and cookies, and so forth.  But there’s no consistent signal that the Easter Bunny is allowed to enter a person’s property.  This is a problem for any version of the Easter Bunny that might be considered a legal person (e.g. the versions that are intelligent and can talk).

Another problem for these Bunnies: where do they get the eggs?  Do they own and raise the chickens themselves?  If so, do they follow all the regulations for chicken farming?  If they buy the eggs, where do they get the money?  There are a lot of holes in the Easter Bunny’s story, to say the least.  At least Santa has a ‘volunteer’ labor force to make the toys.

Of course, unlike Santa, nobody seems to know where the Easter Bunny actually lives these days.  Service of process and jurisdiction might be significant problems for any would-be plaintiffs.

II. Non-Intelligent Bunnies

Some versions of the Easter Bunny are more-or-less actual rabbits, and animals can’t be liable for torts.  However, the animal’s owner can be.  If an animal’s owner lets an animal loose (either intentionally or negligently), and the animal enters another person’s property, that can be a trespass.  But the Easter Bunny doesn’t seem to have an owner (with the possible exception of Cadbury), so this suggests those Bunnies are actually wild animals.

This is unfortunate for the Bunny.  On the one hand it means that neither the Bunny nor any person is liable for its trespasses, but on the other hand it means that in many places the Bunny could be legally captured or even shot.  This concern seems pretty theoretical, however, since the Bunny is apparently very stealthy.

III. Conclusion

As a practical matter, both intelligent and non-intelligent Easter Bunnies seem to be safe from both lawsuits and rabbit traps.  We would still advise intelligent Easter Bunnies to adopt a standard signal that they are allowed on a person’s property, though.  Better safe than sorry!

11 responses to “Law and the Multiverse Holiday Special – Easter Edition

  1. Pingback: Domingueiras « Pensamentos de Uma Batata Transgênica

  2. Melanie Koleini

    How could the bunny ‘adopt a standard signal’? Unlike Santa, who is known to communicate with children through letters and in person at shopping malls across the country, the Easter Bunny is not known to make many public appearances and has no known address.

    Anyway, couldn’t non-religious Easter decorations be a signal? I know there would be a grey zone; I’ve seen some ‘Spring’ decorations that contain bunnies or eggs. But for the most part, families that welcome baskets put out decorations Easter bunny specific decorations.

    • Not known to make many public appearances! What do you mean? As a child I met the Easter Bunny at the local park for year after year along with a few local officials and volunteers. That’s fairly ‘public’ in my opinion.

  3. Melanie Koleini

    Sorry, the last sentence should read:
    “But for the most part, families that welcome baskets put out Easter bunny specific decorations.”

  4. The Intelligent vs Non-Intelligent has always held a mild curiosity for me. To take a sidetrack from the multiverse, consider Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi is a ronin rabbit, all of the characters in the series are animals, and there are lots of animals that are just animals. Apparently the recognized standard is to label sentient/sapient animals as Animals, non-sapients are just animals. Theoretically you could have an Animal horse riding a non-sapient horse.

  5. I don’t know. In my family, we always left baskets out and when we woke up they had candy in them. I thought that was pretty standard. That should satisfy the standard as much as hanging stockings

  6. Melanie Koleini

    I don’t know how aureate the report is, but I heard on NPR’s Spindled Table (and found 1 website) calming the Easter Bunny is being retired in Australia. In the future, baskets will be delivered by the Easter Bilby. The Bilby is a marsupial native to the content.

    On a separate but related note, rabbits do tremendous habit damage in Australia and officials are promoting hunting as part of the solution. Rabbit…the other white meat.

  7. I’m confused. If Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny trespass on your property and you take them to court exactly what damages are you seeking to be addressed? For that matter, if somebody puts up a sign “Trespassers will be prosecuted” and I walk across their lawn anyway and get caught, am I really going to jail because of that stupid sign?

    • Presumably neither Santa Claus nor the Easter Bunny would actually damage your property, so you would only be entitled to nominal damages and perhaps an injunction. Nominal damages are usually something like $1: just a symbol that one side won the case. The injunction would forbid Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny from trespassing again, and if they violated the injunction then they could be subject to harsher penalties (e.g. civil contempt).

      By the way, the reason that trespass does not require actual damages is that a long time ago it was used to resolve disputes over property lines. Courts wouldn’t simply decide whose property was where: they needed a cause of action. So one party would “trespass” onto what they claimed was their own property and the other party claimed was theirs. Then there would be a lawsuit. In order to resolve the suit, the court would effectively have to determine the correct property line. The parties weren’t after money, they were after the property line determination, hence the nominal damages. This is an early example of a legal fiction.

      “Trespassers will be prosecuted” is largely meaningless. Trespassing can be a crime, but the decision to prosecute rests solely with the prosecutor. The prosecutor may take into account a police report or a complaint from a victim, but prosecutors have virtually unlimited discretion over whether to prosecute or not. So such signs are overstating things.

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