How Ambiguous Language Can Cause a Waiver to Fail

By Doyice Cotten

A waiver of liability is a contract intended to relieve a service provider from liability for injuries resulting from the negligence of the provider. Such waivers are enforceable in at least 45 states providing they meet certain requisites. A major requirement in all states is that the waiver must be clear and unambiguous to be enforceable. Some examples of requirements regarding language include 1) A clear and unambiguous contract must be enforced… 2) Language must be unambiguous,

Help in Recognizing Ambiguity in Your Waiver

By Doyice Cotten

Ambiguity is one of the most prevalent claims when challenging the enforceability of liability waivers. This post involves a case in which a waiver is claimed to be ambiguous. We focus on the arguments by the plaintiff and the reasoning of the court in addressing the issue.

Jodi Sheldon suffered serious injury while participating in a high ropes course at the Golden Bell Ranch in Colorado. She sued claiming negligence naming Golden Bell,

Flag Football Waiver Effectiveness Depends on GOL 5-326 Ruling: Was a Fee Paid?

Marc injured his left foot in October, 2015, while playing in a League flag football game (Marc v Middle Country Ctr. Sch. Dist. 2017 NY Slip Op 51678(U)). He jumped to catch a pass, came down on a concealed sprinkler head, and suffered injury. He sued the school district since the league game was played on school district property. Prior to the game, he and the other team members had signed waivers intended to protect the school district from liability.  

Waiver Protects Cheerleader Organization from Liability for Negligence in Georgia

By Doyice Cotten

Kimberly and James Shields sued RDM, LLC d/b/a Georgia All Stars (GA) for negligence when Kimberly tripped and fell from  mats on the floor at an exhibition of participants’ routines for parents to view in the practice area of the gym. Their daughter was a participant in Special Twist (a “special needs all star cheer and dance team.”)  Special Twist is not part of the Georgia All Stars facility or teams, but is instead an independent 501 (3) (c) organization that was invited to participate in the exhibition on the night in question.

Is an Arbitration clause in an unenforceable waiver enforceable in NJ?

By Doyice Cotten

In Hojnowski v. Vans Skate Park (2006), The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that parental waivers of liability (those signed by parents on behalf of their minor child) are not enforceable in New Jersey. In that same decision, it also ruled that parental arbitration agreements (those signed by parents on behalf of their minor child) are enforceable. The rationale in these decisions has been that a liability waiver, if enforced, takes away the rights of the minor for compensation for loss;

Is an Arbitration Clause in a Waiver a Possible Answer to Liability in Connecticut?

By Doyice Cotten

The plaintiff, Rita Lorentz, voluntarily signed a waiver of liability (containing an arbitration clause) when she took her children to a Sky Zone trampoline park. While there, she went to the restroom, slipped in a puddle, fell suffering injury, and subsequently sued the company, HJ & Edward Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Sky Zone (Lorentz v. HJ & Edwards Enterprises, LLC., 2020.

The agreement called for binding arbitration before an arbitrator;

Nevada Supreme Court Rules on Waiver in a Gym Membership Agreement

By Doyice Cotten

Nathan Waldschmidt was injured while using the Edge Fitness facilities and filed suit challenging the waiver he had signed previously. He claimed the waiver was ambiguous.  In 2018 the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the waiver signed by the plaintiff was enforceable (Waldschmidt v. Edge Fitness, LLC, 2018). [Neither details of the incident nor the complete waiver was reported.]

The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the summary judgment of the lower court stating that the waiver located in the gym membership contract was unambiguous.   

The #1 Thing to Check in Your Waiver!

By Doyice Cotten

Contrary to some opinions, All Waivers Are Not Born Equal. Waivers range in length from one sentence to several pages. Some are written specifically for one particular business while others are generic and intended to be used in many situations. Some are written in legalese; others written in plain language. And some provide more types of protection than others.

While waivers may vary in length, specificity, and verbiage, one of the most important determinants of whether the waiver will protect the activity provider is one or two sentences comprising what is called the exculpatory language.

Do Waivers Protect when the Injured Party has a Disability?

By Doyice Cotten

Sometimes activity providers are reluctant to offer activities to participants with disabilities because they fear possible injury and have doubt as to whether their liability waiver would be enforceable against a person with a disability. The following is a case that is more than 20 years old, but that accurately illustrates that there is no “special waiver law” for the disabled.

Franklin Potter, a skilled and experienced handicapped skier, was injured in the National Handicapped Downhill Championships race.

High Ropes Course Waiver Protects Provider and Builder Under Colorado Law

By Doyice Cotten

In  June, 2018, Jodi Sheldon was seriously injured while participating in a high ropes course at the Golden Bell Ranch. She sued Golden Bell Retreat, Cross Bearing Adventures (“CBA”), the company which constructed the course and trained employees, and it’s owner Kent McIlhany. alleging negligence (Sheldon v. Golden Bell Retreat, 2020). All three defendants claimed Ms. Sheldon’s claims are barred by a waiver and indemnification agreement signed by Sheldon.

The Waiver

The waiver read,