Electronic or Online Waivers: How Good Are They?

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By Doyice Cotten

 The preferred form of waiver usage in recreation and sport businesses is quickly becoming electronic (waiver available on a computer, tablet, or online). I am asked whether electronic waivers are as valid and effective as paper waivers.  Today, such waivers are in widespread use and there is no question as to their validity. This writer has found no cases in which a waiver has failed simply because it was not a paper waiver.

Online Waiver Agreements: Not Worth the Paper They’re (Not) Written On?

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This article by Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton addresses some of the concerns regarding the validity of online waivers. Mr Pendleton is with Kohner, Mann, and Kailis of Milwaukee.

Do courts enforce waiver agreements that are entered into electronically, for instance, via an online registration process? Or instead, will courts only find an agreement enforceable if the agreement is printed on a real piece of paper and signed in ink in the traditional manner?

The above questions raise a host of issues.

Online Waivers/Electronic Signatures in NY

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In a 2008 case (Stephenson v. Food Bank for New York City), Devone Stephenson alleged that the league was negligent in its supervision, operation, and control of the basketball game in which he was injured. Stephenson suffered a broken jaw when an opponent suddenly punched him in the face. Stephenson alleged that there was rough play, taunting, and “trash talk” throughout the game even though his team captain asked the referees to clean up the game.

Is the Word “Negligence” Required for Waivers in New York Courts?

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By Doyice Cotten

In 2016, Michelle Kalinkina, a professional model agreed to have a public haircut and styling demonstration. During the haircut, the stylist cut Kalinkina’s neck causing physical injury and scarring. She subsequently sued for damages alleging negligence and gross negligence (Kalinkina v. Martino Cartier Enterprises, LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95670).

Cartier provided a waiver signed by Kalinkina as a defense against the negligence claim. The waiver read:

I am providing modeling services for International Designs Corp.

Bounce House Rental Waiver Protects One Stop Rental Tool and Party from Liability

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By Doyice Cotten

Richard Whitson rented an inflatable bounce house from the defendant, One Stop. Whitson had rented the house in the past.The bounce house weighs over 400 pounds and comes in a vinyl bag, uninflated.   The bag has a strap on the bottom and a cinch strap at the top to keep the bag closed. Whitson watched employees load the house into the back of his truck (Whitson v. One Stop Rental Tool & Party,

Very Broad Waiver Protects in Spite of Fact a Signed Waiver was not Produced

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 By Doyice Cotten

Theresa Brigance was injured at Vail while taking beginning skiing lessons. Vail claimed no liability on the basis of a required liability waiver. Brigance’s ski boot became wedged under the chair in the ski lift. Interestingly, Vail was unable to produce a signed waiver in court.(Brigance v. Vail Summit Resorts, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5447)

Liability waivers sometimes fail because they are not broad enough to cover the circumstances of the incident;

Evaluation of a Liability Waiver by a California Appellate Court

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By Doyice Cotten

Quite often I get a request by a service provider to take a look at their waiver and tell them if I think it is adequate. So I thought many readers might like to see how a court looks at a waiver to determine if it is enforceable. A California case involved an incident at a trampoline facility; the court discussed why the waiver was valid and enforceable (Torres v. House of Air,

Choice-of-Law Provision Fails: Waiver Falls under Vermont Law

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By Doyice Cotten

Brian Kearney was seriously injured while competing in a USSA sanctioned amateur downhill ski race at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont, in February, 2015. USSA members were eligible to participate and membership required signing a liability waiver (Kearney v. Okemo Limited Liability Company, 2016).

The waiver contained the following exculpatory provision:

Member hereby unconditionally WAIVES AND RELEASES ANY AND ALL CLAIMS, AND AGREES TO HOLD HARMLESS,

Poorly Written New York Church Waiver Fails

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By Doyice Cotten

Panagiota Melis, a member of the Helenic Orthodox Church, slipped and fell on snow and ice in the Church’s parking lot after parking her vehicle. She filed suit against the church alleging negligence (Melis v. Helenic Orthodox Community, 2017 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 981).

The church claimed protection from a waiver and assumption of risk document signed previously by the plaintiff. The court ruled that General Obligations Law (“GOL”) 5-326 did not apply and did not serve to prevent the enforcement of the waiver because the church was not a place of amusement or recreation.

Maryland Vendor/Landlord Waiver Fails Due to Statute

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By Doyice Cotten

Eugene Jaeger, operator of the Unicorn Strings Music Company was a vendor at the outdoor International Renaissance Festival (IRF) in Maryland when he slipped and fell while walking on a gravel walkway and a boardwalk to go to the restroom. While on the boardwalk, he stepped onto a patch of a slippery substance and fell.(Jaeger v. International Renaissance Festivals, LTD, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72539)

He had signed a waiver of liability in his vendor lease;