Unexpected Loopholes to Liability for Special Events

by Barley Snyder
Contact

The upcoming warmer weather will signal the start of race season, with organizations and businesses throughout central Pennsylvania hosting 5k run/walks, bike races and or any kind of outdoor activity to raise money for charity. Those hosting and organizing these kinds of events should learn the harsh lesson of liability that recently cost a Pennsylvania event organizer millions.

Earlier this month, a Philadelphia jury awarded nearly $3.2 million in a verdict against Philadelphia and ELM Productions after a bicyclist sustained injuries when he hit a sinkhole during a charity bicycle race in 2015. The bicyclist had signed a liability waiver prior to participating in the event, but neither the judge nor jury were convinced the bicyclist waived his right to sue for receiving no warning of such a known, dangerous condition on the race route.

Liability waivers for special events are common, but while they may be partially effective at reducing lawsuits, they are by no means iron-clad. Pennsylvania courts have held that they will always be interpreted as narrowly as possible, and many exceptions apply to enforceability. For one, unless there is a specific waiver of “gross negligence,” a simple negligence waiver may not prohibit suits alleging gross negligence. Similarly, even if the participant has signed a waiver of recklessness, in Pennsylvania, such waivers are void as against public policy. The line between negligence, gross negligence and recklessness frequently involves complex factual questions that require depositions and a jury determination. Even if the injured party is complaining of conduct for which he waived his right to sue, the waiver will not relieve the event sponsor of the obligation to defend the suit through trial. 

The precise words of any liability waiver are extremely important, because courts can determine that unexpected risks were not bargained away by the signer. In one case, while a participant in a racquetball game had signed a waiver discharging all claims against the gym “due to negligence or any other fault,” the Superior Court narrowly interpreted the language to only waive liability for injuries sustained related to the negligence of entities other than the gym.

To add more difficulty for those hosting special events, most special event insurance policies or endorsements contain an “athletic or sports participant exclusion” for bodily injuries sustained by any event participants, essentially limiting coverage for spectator bodily injury. Even activities such as dancing can lead to exclusion by an insurance carrier under this provision. These dual concerns can lead an event sponsor to a situation where it faces the prospect of being directly liable for a multi-million dollar verdict after an injury despite having its participants sign a liability waiver and despite obtaining special event insurance.

For those hosting special events, there are always risks of litigation, even when participants sign a liability waiver and even when the host purchases special event insurance. Sponsors should be sure their liability waivers are carefully and specifically worded to provide maximum immunity from suit. Even if a liability waiver is signed, sponsors should still take precaution to remove dangerous conditions or to warn participants of any conditions that cannot be removed. Event hosts should also take a detailed look at their insurance policy language to ensure that in the event there are unexpected injuries, coverage is provided.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Barley Snyder | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Barley Snyder
Contact
more
less

Barley Snyder on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.