Leonardo Angiulo: Signing A Release - The Price of Admission
Monday, November 18, 2013
Since a release is a type of contract there are fundamental components that must exist for the legal definition to be met. Traditionally, a contract requires an offer by one party accepted by the other with consideration, something of value, exchanged between them. When a contract is formed the parties have agreed to certain things and the effect is the creation of a legally binding set of terms outlining what will happen in certain circumstances.
One example from case law is when a person wants to take lessons on how to ride a motorcycle. In Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of the National Safety Council, the court considered whether, or not, a particular waiver was enforceable. Of specific concern was whether the scope of the release encompassed any negligence of the facility and its employees. The court, in that case, found that using words like “any and all . . . claims and/or causes of action, including but not limited to all bodily injury” did cover a very broad range of claims, including the damages claimed by the plaintiff in that case, even if they were the defendant's fault.
In making this decision, the court highlighted that the plaintiff voluntarily entered the course and chose to sign the release before participating. The use of these types of contracts are common and are routinely enforced by the Massachusetts courts. They are so effective that, if a release is properly formed and covers the facts in question, a defendant is entitled to a dismissal before trial when a motion for summary judgment is filed.
The trick, however, is whether the release is properly formed in the first place. Since every fact pattern is different it is imperative that a person wanting to make money doing something with the potential for physical injury to another speak with their own attorney.
But it isn't only when money is involved that releases come in handy. Public School systems don't generally treat their sports programs as money making propositions, but since the case of Sharon v. City of Newton they should certainly use releases for student athletes. In this case, the court reviewed a release signed by a father on behalf of a child that included a promise to not seek damages in the event that his daughter got hurt while cheerleading. Like many contracts, it was easily agreed to before it mattered. And then the daughter's arm became broken.
The court reviewed the terms of the release, as well as the claims by the daughter, and decided the agreement not to pursue claims against the city was enforceable. One of the smallest points in the case is interesting though: it didn't matter that there wasn't any money exchanged. The daughter's ability to participate in the cheerleading program was enough consideration for the contract to be properly formed. Which goes to show you that activities and objects can have inherent value, according to the courts, depending on the circumstances.
One of the most interesting rules in Massachusetts, in my opinion, is that it doesn't matter if the waiving party actually reads or understands the contents of the release before they sign it. If the person signing had the opportunity to read it and understand it, and chose not to, they are deemed to have understood it. So before you reach out for the pen and scribble your name on the dotted line next time, take a minute to review what you're signing before you get on that roller coaster.
Related Slideshow: The 12 Best Pizzas In New England 2013
According to the Daily Meal, twelve of the America's101 best pizzas can be found right here in New England. Take a look, and find out where you can get your next tasty pie.
#12 Galleria Umberto Rosticceria (Boston)
#11 Picco (Boston)
#10 Al Forno (Old Saybrook, CT)
#9 Coppa (Boston)
#8 Scampo (Boston)
#7 Santarpio's (East Boston)
#6 Colony Grill (Stamford, CT)
#4 Modern Apizza (New Haven, CT)
#3 Al Forno (Providence, RI)
#2 Sally's Apizza (New Haven, CT)
#1 Frank Pepe's (New Haven, CT)
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