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.

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.

Duration of Waivers: A 3 Part Series – Part 3

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Part 3

By Doyice Cotten

In a Massachusetts case (Borges v. Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, Inc., 2000), Israel Borges, a trainer, sustained injuries when he slipped due to ice on the ground and fell while on property at the Suffolk Downs Track owned and controlled by the defendants.

The defendants moved for summary judgment because Borges’ claim was barred by a waiver executed in a stall application. The pertinent part of the waiver stated:

Suffolk Downs,

Duration of Waivers: A 3 Part Series – Part 2

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Part 2

By Doyice Cotten

Nicholas Weinrish was injured while operating a go-kart on the defendant’s track (Weinrich V. Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Inc.,  2015). A piece of plastic covering a guardrail broke and protruded toward the track; plaintiff suffered an injury to his leg when he struck the plastic.

Weinrich had patronized the establishment six months earlier and had signed a waiver of liability at that time.

Duration of Waivers: A 3 Part Series — Part 1

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Part 1

By Doyice Cotten

Tariq Davis, a minor, was injured when he ran into the street and was struck by an auto while chasing a soccer ball (Davis v. American Youth Soccer Organization, Virgin Islands, 2016). The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) claimed protection from a waiver signed by a parent on behalf of the youth.

Courts in the Virgin Islands have stated that “an exculpatory clause which limits or absolves a party for its own ordinary negligence is generally enforceable, 

NJ Federal Court Addresses Several Waiver Issues:

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By Doyice Cotten

In a recent New Jersey case (Kang v. LA Fitness of South Plainfield, 2016), the court addressed several issues relating to waivers. Among them was 1) non-reader or speaker of English, 2) font size, 3) national association standards, 4) failure to read the waiver, 5) failure to explain the waiver, 6) failure to initial a provision of the waiver, and 7) contract of adhesion.

Ms Kang was injured while working out on the chin/dip assist pull-up machine.

Waivers and Volunteer Workers

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By Doyice Cotten

Certain types of special relationships can affect the enforceability of liability waivers. One such relationship is that between an employer and an employee – often referred to as the master-servant relationship.  Generally, waivers which employers require that their employees sign are unenforceable because of the economic hold that the employer has over the employee. Such waivers are generally deemed to be in violation of public policy.

In contrast, waivers between an employer and a volunteer worker are generally enforced.