A growing number of organizations are requiring a signature on liability waivers before allowing folks to participate. On one hand, these documents are supposed to help patrons stay informed of the possible risks. The problem is, people rarely read them – or read them thoroughly – and the details in the fine print are often the most critical.
Although these waivers – which are essentially contracts – are often upheld by courts, they can be successfully challenged on a number of grounds. One could argue the waiver didn’t fully outline the exact risks. One might also argue that the waiver was inherently unfair. It’s possible to say the language was unclear or ambiguous. One could also argue gross negligence.
While waivers of liability can insulate organizations from liability for acts of negligence – which is an absence of reasonable care – they cannot insulate from gross negligence. The latter occurs when there is failure to use even the slightest amount of care. It is when a person deliberately disregards someone else’s safety by an act or omission they knew or should have known was going to put someone in danger. This was the allegation in the recent case of Steinberg v. Sahara Sam’s, weighed by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Continue reading