The Importance of a Well-written Waiver

By Doyice Cotten 

Sport, recreation, and fitness businesses regularly depend upon liability waivers for protection from liability for injuries resulting from the negligence of the business. What is still astounding is the quality of some of the waivers relied upon by some businesses. Some small businesses have investments of hundreds of thousands of dollars; other businesses’ investments are in the millions. In spite of this, some are relying upon what seems to be a 25 cent waiver.

In New Pelican Charters,LLC v.

Niagara Jet Boat Patron Challenges Waiver on Negligence, Violation of a Safety Statute, Breaching a Condition of a Contract, and Gross Negligence

By Doyice Cotten

Scott and Sarah Witkowski and their son rode a Niagara Jet Adventures(referred to as Niagara) jet boat after having signed a waiver of liability. The boat hit a large wave throwing Scott and the son into Sarah causing injury.  The Witkowskis sued Niagara alleging negligence and gross negligence. They also alleged negligence per se claiming Niagara violated a safety statute (This was not properly pled and was dismissed.)

The Waiver

Pertinent parts of the waiver read:

“In consideration of participating in whitewater,

Liability Waivers 101 (2018 Update)

By Doyice Cotten

Where there are fitness, recreation, and sport activities, there are injuries! Unfortunately, where there are injuries, there are lawsuits! Providers of these activities must take care to manage risk in three ways.  First, the provider should institute a sound risk management program which includes an approach toward reducing the likelihood of injury as much as possible.  Secondly, they should purchase financial protection through liability insurance. Third, they should use an agreement by which the client agrees to relieve the provider of liability for participant injury – the document should include an assumption of risk (for inherent risks),

Which States “Require” the Use of the Term “Negligence” in Waivers

By Doyice Cotten

Sportwaiver has, on a number of occasions, emphasized the importance, or even the necessity, of specifying within the waiver that the signer is releasing the provider from liability for injuries resulting from the negligence of the provider. In this post, we are re-emphasizing this need. The reader can check below to see what the courts in the reader’s state seem to require currently.

Statutes and the case law in the following states (or jurisdictions) have not yielded enough information for us to determine if courts require the use of the term “negligence” to be used.

Hawaii Statute Prohibiting Waivers Enforced in Scuba Case

By Doyice Cotten

In a recent ruling, the U.S. District Court of Hawaii ruled that a liability waiver could not protect a scuba diving business from liability for negligence (Hambrook v. Smith, 2015). William Savage died while scuba diving with Hawaiian Scuba Shack; his wife, Sandra Hambrook filed suit against the company as well as PADI.

Savage had signed a liability waiver which the plaintiff claimed was unenforceable against public policy because it violated a state statute prohibiting liability waivers in recreational activities.

Waiver Clearly Specifying Risks Enforced in NY Case

By Doyice Cotten

Last Week’s Post (Admiralty Law Trumps GOL 5-326 Statute in NY Jet Boat Waiver Case) focused on fact that federal admiralty law supersede  state law (including New York’s G.O.L. 5-326. We look at this case again (Brozyna v. Niagara Gorge Jetboating, LTD., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111546) focusing this time on the language of the waiver and other risk management steps taken by the provider.Courts in many states require that the waiver language warn the signer of the inherent risks of the activity involved.

A Waiver Administration Tip

By Doyice Cotten

Usually, courts will not enforce a waiver against an injured party who did not sign the waiver; this is true even if another party “signed it for the participant.”  Thus, it is always best practice for the service provider to require that each participant sign a waiver prior to participation.

The ski resort Wild Mountain, Inc., however, got lucky in a 2014 Minnesota case involving an injured skier (Bergin v.

Risk Management: Cruise Ship Precautions for Jet Ski Tour

By Doyice Cotten

In a case involving a collision between two jet skis during a jet ski tour provided by Royal Caribbean Cruises (Royal), Royal listed the risk management steps taken in an effort to prevent injuries ( In re Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD, 2013).  The tour consisted of a number of jet skiers in a single file follow-the-leader type tour. Providers of all sport businesses would do well to study these steps and adapt them to their sport business.

Parental Waivers – Waivers Signed by Parents on Behalf of a Minor! Are they Enforceable in Your State?

By Doyice Cotten

At one point, maybe 25 years or so ago, it was not unusual to hear or read ——-, “Waivers are not worth the paper they are printed on!” That time has come and gone; now virtually every professional in sport, recreation, and fitness recognizes that in most states, waivers can provide valuable protection against significant financial loss as a result of injury lawsuits.

In fact, courts in about 45 states enforce well-drafted liability waivers that are voluntarily signed by adult participants in sport,

Waivers & Releases of Liability — NEW 9th Edition 2016

By Doyice J. Cotten & Mary B. Cotten

The only book of its kind –
Used by:

  • Attorneys,
  • Insurance Companies,and
  • Sport, Fitness, and Recreation Professionals

239 Pages Including:

• More than 70 pages of waiver-writing tips from over 1400 cases + statutes
• 20 pages on waiver law for minors for each State
• 88 pages summarizing waiver law for each state, P.R., Virgin Islands, D.C.,