What is a Release of Liability?

By Peter DePaolis

Today, you might have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, such as training at a CrossFit center, attending a steam yoga study, or even speed dating. These are fast-paced, exciting activities that are meant to get your heart pumping. Unfortunately, they also carry a higher risk for injury.

Along with the opportunity to participate, you are presented with a form that tells you that you are accepting the known risks of that activity. This form is known as a liability waiver, release of responsibility, or waiver. The release is the company’s contractual attempt to remove the risk of a personal injury lawsuit and forces you to release them from liability.

These waivers are very tricky, and you should never willingly sign one without knowing why you are signing it.

Why Release of Liability Waivers Exist

A release of liability or an exculpatory clause states that you are willing to release a party of its legal obligation to another. The typical waiver might be something you are required to sign before you can participate in something, such as the case with the 24-Hour Fitness lawsuit. Often, the waiver or clause is straightforward and explains what rights you are giving up. However, the company relies on the fact that you are unlikely to read it.

How Powerful Are Such Waivers?

In general, the law has heavily scrutinized these agreements, especially because the law recognizes that these contracts are a company’s way of escaping liability. Courts have observed that a release of accountability creates a conflict of contract and liability laws.

While individuals should be able to agree to limit future liability, the public should be protected from negligent acts. Some states do not allow the use of these waivers or they have specific statutes that ensure those signing them are aware of the consequences of doing such.

Also, if that liability waiver goes directly against the policy of the law, the courts may not enforce the liability waiver.

The Issue of Gross Negligence

A release of liability could bar you from filing for compensation. However, acts of gross negligence do not apply. For example, the gymnasium you were working out at was more than aware that they had faulty equipment, but they decided to allow people to use that equipment knowing a party could be injured. In this case, they were grossly negligent.

The courts would not validate a liability waiver because a waiver does not excuse a person’s gross negligence. Equally, if the injury was the result of intentional acts, the court would not allow the employer or employee to use a liability waiver as a defense.

Did You Sign a Waiver? You May Still Have a Case

Whether you signed a waiver or you were merely injured, you have rights. It is best to discuss your injury case with an attorney that has experience in liability-related claims.

Contact the attorneys at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today to discuss your case. We have three convenient office locations, or you can schedule a free case evaluation online.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.