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.
The league claimed that Stephenson had released the league from liability when he completed an online form containing a waiver provision. If you are not used to legal terminology then this may seem rather confusing, however you don’t have to be an expert on the subject or to have been through marketing higher education to understand it. The following should hopefully help you understand it more clearly.
1. Acknowledge and duly understand that each participant will be engaging in activities that involve risk of serious injury, including permanent disability and death, and severe social and economic losses which might result not only from their own action, inactions or negligence but the actions, inactions or negligence of others, the rules of play, or the condition of the premises or of any equipment used. Further, that there may be other risks not known to us or not reasonably foreseeable at this time.
3. Assume all the foregoing risks and accept personal responsibility for the damages following such injury, permanent disability or death.
4. Release, waive, discharge and covenant not to sue the Lawyers Athletic League, Inc., Lawyers Athletic Association, Inc., the Lawyers Basketball League, the New York City Corporate Basketball League, Lawyer Volleyball League and its related Leagues and affiliated organizations, their directors, commissioners, referees, employees, agents, facilities and sponsors from any and all liability to the undersigned, his or her heirs and next of kin for any and all claims, demands, losses or damages on account of injury, including death or damage to property, caused or alleged to be caused in whole or in part by the negligence of Lawyers Athletic League, Inc. or its related “releasees” enumerated above.
By checking this box the participants have read the above waiver & release, understand that they are giving up substantial rights by checking it and check it voluntarily. pp 4-6
In part 1, the waiver clearly warns of some of the risks of basketball, including those resulting from the player’s own actions and the actions, inactions, and negligence of others. In addition, in part 4, the signer releases the league and others from all claims, including those caused or alleged to be caused in whole or in part by the league’s negligence.
The court stated that the online release 1) expressly releases the league from liability resulting from the negligence of the league and 2) indicated that the signer assumed the risk and accepts personal responsibility for his negligence and the negligence of others. It added that electronic signatures are valid under New York law citing NY CLS State Technology Law ₰ 304 (2009).
1. The electronic facilitator shall establish rules and regulations governing the use of electronic signatures and authentication. The electronic facilitator shall not establish rules or regulations that seek to apportion fault or impose or limit liability relating to the use of electronic signatures.
2. In accordance with this section unless specifically provided otherwise by law, an electronic signature may be used by a person in lieu of a signature affixed by hand. The use of an electronic signature shall have the same validity and effect as the use of a signature affixed by hand.
The court subsequently dismissed all claims against the defendant. Therefore, it is apparent that electronic signatures on waivers are admissible in New York. Other states have statutes regarding electronic signatures, but statutes will vary considerably among states. Further, the author has not found any other case law regarding waivers and electronic signatures.