Donahue v. Ledgends, Inc.: Liability Waivers in Negligence Actions

Our Charlotte personal injury lawyers know that companies will try to avoid liability for negligent conduct by having customers agree to lengthy and confusing liability waivers.

climbing-the-wall-288569-m.jpgIn Donahue v. Ledgends, Inc., an Alaska case, the plaintiff signed up for a beginner rock climbing class at a local gym. The gym was designed to simulate a rock-climbing environment, as the walls were made to look like rocks with various hand and footholds attached.

The plaintiff was no stranger to risky physical activities, both while exercising and at work. According to the record, she had worked in construction and on a commercial fishing boat. She had also gone kite boarding, which is considered a dangerous activity.

She testified that, after seeing a variety of advertisements from the gym describing it as a safe and fun way to learn rock climbing, she decided to sign up. The first class she attended involved learning to climb on a simulated rock wall while wearing a safety harness. She had no problems during this class.

The second class she attended was designed to teach the skill of bouldering. This involves climbing on four- to five-foot artificial boulders without wearing a safety harness. After a couple of hours of successfully bouldering, she found herself in a situation that she did not feel she could safely negotiate and told her instructor that she did not see an appropriate hold to grab.

Rather than helping her find a way to climb down, her instructor suggested that she jump off the wall. He told her to bend her knees to lessen the impact from the fall when she hit the mat. She had seen several others fall from that height during the class and not get injured so she agreed to jump off the wall. When she hit the mat, she landed in such a way that she broke her tibia bone in four places.

She sued the gym for negligence. The theory she relied upon was that the defendant had failed to properly train and supervise its instructor employees. This is a common theory in a negligence case, so that the plaintiff can sue both the employee who engaged in the conduct alleged to be negligent as well as the employer who likely has insurance or more money from which to pay the claim than the employee.

The plaintiff also claimed that the advertising campaigns that claimed the classes were safe and fun and that the participants had only to gain and nothing to lose were untrue and deceptive advertisements. She alleged that his was a violation of the Uniform Consumer Protection Act (UCPA).

The defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that case should be dismissed because the plaintiff had a signed a waiver releasing the gym owners and its employees from any and all negligence.

This was a standard disclaimer, and the plaintiff testified that she was aware of the purpose of such a waiver. While she admitted to signing the waiver and knowing that it was meant to preclude someone from filing a lawsuit, she testified that she didn’t really read the form before signing it.

The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, and the appeals court affirmed the dismissal on grounds that the waiver was valid.

As your Charlotte personal injury attorney can explain, while some of these disclaimers are valid, many are in violation of state law and will be considered null and void. The outcome will often depend on the specificity of the language contained therein.

Contact the Charlotte personal injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Donahue v. Ledgends, Inc., August 1, 2014, Supreme Court of Alaska
More Blog Entries:

Warner v. Simmons: Contributory Negligence and Premises Liability Actions, July 21, 2014, Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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