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.

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;

Woman Held to Waiver Signed by Husband in California Health Club Case

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By Doyice Cotten

Sheila Brown joined 24 Hour on February 27, 2001, signing the 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. membership agreement containing a liability waiver.  She terminated her membership several months later; then, after a few months her son renewed her membership through his corporate membership. Her husband signed the club waiver on her behalf.

Two years later, Sheila tripped over a dumbbell that had been left on the floor and suffered injury. She filed suit against 24 Hour and claimed the waiver was unenforceable because she had not signed the waiver.

Illinois Drag Racing Waiver Upheld for Negligence — But not for Strict Liability

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By Doyice Cotten

David Jones, suffered permanent injuries in a drag-racing accident resulting from the failure of an added part during the performance of a wheelie. He filed this products liability action against UPR and numerous other entities alleged to have participated in the production or design of the Product, alleging negligence and strict liability (Jones v. UPR Products, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54887)

He had previously signed a Waiver of Liability Assumption of Risk and Indemnity Agreement.