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,

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,

Hanrahan-Fox v. Top Gun Shooting Sports (2019): A Look at Missouri Waiver Law

By Doyice Cotten

Marie Hanrahan-Fox, after patronizing the shooting range operated by Defendant Top Gun Shooting Sports, alleged that she suffered irreversible hearing loss due to the inadequate hearing protection provided her by Top Gun.  She claimed that Top Gun was negligent; in addition, her husband made a claim for loss of consortium.  They also made a products liability claim against Pyramex Safety Products, LLC, which was not before this court.

Top Gun moved for Summary Judgment based on the waiver signed by the plaintiff. 

Niagara Jet Boat Accident Pits Maritime Law vs. New York State Law

By Doyice Cotten

In 2016, Sarah Witkowski and her husband, Scott, were passengers on a jet boat operated by Niagara Jet Adventures, LLC, (“Niagara Jet”) when she suffered injury. They sued alleging negligence or willful and reckless conduct. Niagara Jet moved for summary judgment based on the waiver of liability signed by Sarah (Witkowski v. Niagara Jet Adventures, LLC, 2020).

Upon arrival, they noticed a safety video playing in the background;  Sarah “looked at” and signed a waiver of liability.

A Perfect Electronic Waiver will not Protect if the Provider cannot Authenticate the Electronic Signature

By Doyice Cotten

In several previous posts (including Established Protocol for Administering an Electronic Waiver Protects Fair when Participant is Killed), this author has commented on how the validity of electronic waivers is dependent upon following procedures by which the electronic signature of the participant can be shown to be authentic.

Facts of the Case

In each of the articles, cases in which the electronic waiver has been enforced are reported.

Online Waivers: Some Mistakes to Avoid

Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton is an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who helps recreational opportunity providers create and properly deploy precisely-crafted waiver and other agreements. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

By Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton

Forgoing the traditional signed paper waiver agreement, and using instead an online or electronic waiver agreement, is becoming very common, and courts in several states have enforced such waiver agreements.