Electronic or Online Waivers: How Good Are They?

 

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?

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

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.

Test Your Legal IQ: Predict Whether the Court Enforced this Waiver

By Doyice Cotten

Many waivers, even otherwise well-written ones, fail because the language can be interpreted in two ways. This case provides us with a good example of such a waiver (Fresnedo v. Porky’s Gym III, 2019). The judges read the waiver and came up with two diametrically opposed interpretations. Here are the facts of the incident, some pertinent Florida waiver rulings, the waiver itself, and the arguments of the two sides – one saying the plaintiff clearly waived his right to redress;

Tough Mudder’s Waiver Prohibited by NY GOL § 5-326

By Doyice Cotten

In the June 14 post (Do You Have a “Landmine” in Your Electronic Waiver?), we focused on electronic waivers. The case, Scotti v. Tough Mudder Inc. (2019), however, dealt also with whether the waiver was enforceable in light of New York’s General Obligations Law § 5-326. The law provides:

[e]very covenant, agreement or understanding in or in connection with, or collateral to, any contract, membership application, ticket of admission or similar writing,

Defective Rowing Machine & No “Out of Order” Sign — Waiver Protected

By Doyice Cotten

AnneMichelle Johnson, a member of Gold’s Gym Rockies, LLC, sustained an injury when trying to use a rowing machine. She set her usual resistance, tried to pull, heard a pop in her back, and the pull bar did not move. She set resistance at zero, tried to pull again, and it did not move. About that time an employee came over and told her it was broken and he was there to fix it.

She found her back was severely injured and filed a premises liability suit alleging negligence (Johnson v.

Illinois Racetrack Protected from Negligence Liability by Liability Waiver

By Doyice Cotten

Amber Rady, the wife of a racecar driver, sued Southern Illinois Raceway, Inc., for negligence after being injured while in the pit area of the racetrack. Her husband was driving in the event and she signed a waiver in order to be admitted into the restricted pit area. While in the pit area, she stepped into a hole filled with water and subsequently sued the racetrack for negligence (Rady v. S. Ill. Raceway,

Tennessee Supreme Court Establishes New Standards for Waiver Enforcement

By Doyice Cotten

Courts in Tennessee have long held that waivers of liability for negligence are enforceable; in fact, waivers were not disfavored and the bar for enforcement was fairly low. Things may be changing because the Tennessee Supreme Court, in a non-sport case (Copeland v. HealthSouth/Methodist Rehab. Hosp., 2018), reiterated that the public policy in Tennessee has historically favored freedom of contract.  Nevertheless, the court made it emphatically clear that “not all exculpatory agreements should be enforceable,” and established new criteria for enforcement that are now in effect.

A Reason Waivers Sometime Fail — Incident is Beyond the Scope of a Waiver and/or Not Within the Contemplation of Plaintiff

By Doyice Cotten

We know that in most states, a well-written waiver of liability will protect a sport, recreation, or fitness provider from liability for injuries to an adult resulting from the ordinary negligence of the provider. Such waivers, however, are not limitless; there are situations and circumstances in which even a well-written waiver will fail to provide protection for the negligent provider. The following Illinois appellate case (Offord v. Fitness International, LLC,,2015) illustrates one circumstance in which a waiver fails to protect.