People typically think that if they sign a liability waiver, they cannot seek justice for another party's negligence. However, this is not always the case.
Liability waivers address understood risks based on the nature of the activity. However, in a recent case a Florida appellate court made it clear that negligent parties who owe a duty of care do not get a go home free card.
In Gillette v. All Pro Sports (ruling filed January 24, 2014), Gillette signed a go kart use waiver and release that basically stated she knew about the dangers involved, she had the degree of skill necessary to drive safely and would do so responsibly. She was responsible for any injuries she experienced. Gillette's lawyer alleged that a company employee negligently increased her go kart's speed during a race, which caused her to lose control and crash into the railing. The company's attorney filed for summary judgment that the waiver and release form precluded the plaintiff's ability to sue for negligence.
The court based its ruling on the following legal premises in case law:
- Courts hold negligent parties accountable when they seek to be relieved of liability through clauses that deny injured parties the right to recover damages (from the case UCF Athletics Assn'n v. Plancher that cites Cain v. Banka and Sunny Isles Marina Inc. v. Adulami.)
- For waiver clauses to be effective they must be so clear and understandable that an ordinary and knowledgeable person will know what he or she is contracting away (from Raveson v. Walt Disney World Co. that cited Lantz v. Iron Horse Saloon, Inc.)
The waiver was not clear as to whose negligence was being waived and the court denied the summary judgment request, allowing Gillette's lawsuit to proceed.
If you suffer serious injury through someone's intentional act or negligence, always consult with a Florida personal injury lawyer to understand your rights.