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Leonardo Angiulo: Signing A Release - The Price of Admission

Monday, November 18, 2013


Just before you set out to do something really cool, it seems like there’s always paperwork standing in your way. Of course, all that paperwork has a purpose. More often than not, that really cool and exciting thing you plan on doing has an inherent risk of injury and/or death or dismemberment. In fact, sometimes the higher the risk, the more excited you get. A release is essentially a contract between you and, usually, an organizer of an event or property owner where you get to do something and promise not to sue the organizing party if that something goes wrong.

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. 

Prev Next

#12 Galleria Umberto Rosticceria (Boston)

Cheese Pizza
Overall Rank: #85
A North End staple, Galleria Umberto is a by-the-slice pizza place that often features lines extending around the block.  The interior features no frills, the menu is quite simple, but their cheese pizza has long been been considered to be Boston's best.  
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#11 Picco (Boston)

Margherita Pizza
Overall Rank: 76
Located next to Boston Center for the Arts, Picco is a full-service restaurant featuring a wide selection of Mediterranean cuisine. Though the margherita pizza is the reason they made the list, they also have several inventive pie options such as Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash & Fontina, or Roasted Eggplant & Cauliflower. 
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#10 Al Forno (Old Saybrook, CT)

Margherita Pizza
Overall Rank: 68
Established in 1992, Al Forno (Not the one in Providence) uses a brick oven heated to over 600 degrees to create some of the best pizzas on the New Haven shoreline. They have received favorable reviews in the New York Times and Hartford Courant, and were named as one of Zagat's "Top 1000 Italian Restauants in America" in 2008. 
Prev Next

#9 Coppa (Boston)

Salsiccia Pizza
Overall Rank: 54
The wood-fired pizza at Coppa compliments a full menu of traditional italian dishes crafted by owner-chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette.  Early in his culinary career, Oringer worked as pastry chef at Providence's Al Forno, which also made this list. 
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#8 Scampo (Boston)

Lamb Pizza
Overall Rank: 41
Scampo, the first-floor restaurant within the famous prison-turned-hotel, Liberty Hotel, features a full menu of inventive italian-inspired cuisine, which also draws on Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern flavors.  The Lamb pizza, which makes the list, is only one of several unique pie options on their menu.
Prev Next

#7 Santarpio's (East Boston)

Mozzarella, Sausage, and Garlic Pizza
Overall Rank: 29
Established in 1903, the East Boston-based Santarpio's is the three-time defending award winner of "Best Traditional Pizza" by Boston Magazine.  The family-owned features New York-style pizza and has become a landmark in the Boston area. 
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#6 Colony Grill (Stamford, CT)

Sausage Pizza
Overall Rank:27
Colony Grill, established in Stamford's largest Irish neighborhood in 1935, features thin-crust style pizza.  Their menu is very simple, including only the staple pizza ingredients, allowing the restaurant to offer "a one-of-a-kind thin-crust pizza that is served simply."
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#5 Regina Pizzeria (Boston)

Melanzane Pizza
Overall Rank: 22
Though they have more than a dozen locations, Regina Pizzeria's original location in Boston's North End serves as a neighborhood staple and landmark.  Many of the pizzeria's menu items are old family recipes dating back to its establishment in 1926. 
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#4 Modern Apizza (New Haven, CT)

Italian Bomb Pizza
Overall Rank: 11
Founded in 1934, Modern Apizza features brick oven-style pizzas.  Their traditional Italian menu features many great pies and specialty items, but are on this list due to the "Italian Bomb," a pizza covered in bacon, sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, pepper, and garlic. 
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#3 Al Forno (Providence, RI)

Margarita Pizza
Overall Rank: 10
Chef-owners Johanne Killeen and George Germon established Al Forno in 1980 to bring simple renditions of food rooted in various Italian regions to Providence. Their signature margarita pizza has been named to several "best pizza" lists in recent years, such as Food and Wine magazine. 
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#2 Sally's Apizza (New Haven, CT)

Tomato Pie
Overall Rank: 7
Sally's, established in 1938 by Salvatore Consiglio, is renown for its thin crust pizza which has been made in the same coal-fired oven for more than 60 years. Salvatore was the nephew of Frank Pepe, whose pizza also made the list.  
Prev Next

#1 Frank Pepe's (New Haven, CT)

White Clam Pizza
Overall Rank:1
Established in 1925, Frank Pepe's Pizzeria's white clam pizza is rated as not only the best pizza in New England, but also best in all of America.  The pizzeria uses coal-fired brick ovens, and uses only fresh clams in their most famous pie. Frank Pepe's has been a favorite for many celebrities over the years, including Ronald Regan and Frank Sinatra. 

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