A valid liability waiver is enforceable here in California–and will protect the defendant from liability for ordinary negligence. However, for a number of reasons, experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyers know that not all liability waivers are valid. Additionally, these waivers do not shield the defendant from liability due to more egregious
conduct that rises above ordinary negligence.
What Makes a Liability Waiver Valid?
Liability waivers are commonly required to participate in certain activities or use specific facilities, such as kayaking, surfing, rock climbing, rides at the amusement park, or trying out a new gym. No matter how official it appears, though, not all waivers are considered to be valid. To be enforceable, the waiver must meet the following criteria:
- It clearly explains the activities it covers and the risks of participating in those activities
- It explicitly states the rights that you are waiving when you sign it
- The causes of action and injuries discussed in the liability waiver must be related to the activities that are mentioned in the waiver
- It must be written in a clearly visible font, it cannot be buried within other documents that you are signing, and the language is understandable
- The defendant cannot encourage you to participate in this activity via deception, fraud, undue influence, misrepresentation, or fraud
When a Valid Liability Waiver Shields the Defendant from Liability
If the liability waiver meets all of these elements listed above, it will likely protect the defendant from ordinary negligence. For example, you are working out at a new gym for the first time, and you trip, fall and injure yourself on a dumbbell– that had been sitting on the floor for 30 minutes. It was not re-racked by a gym employee when they were monitoring the facility. This would likely be a case of ordinary negligence. If you had signed a valid waiver upon entering the gym, you likely would not be able to sue the gym for your injuries.
However, suppose you trip and fall and injure yourself in a high-traffic area where there are dozens of dumbbells and weights on the floor. Further, the employees at the gym never monitored or inspected the area. This may be viewed as gross negligence. In that case, even a valid waiver would not shield the gym from liability for your injuries suffered in the trip or slip and fall accident.
Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence
In City of Santa Barbara v. Superior Court of Santa Barbara, the California Supreme Court explained the difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence:
‘ordinary negligence’ – an unintentional tort– consists of a failure to exercise the degree of care in a given situation that a reasonable person under similar circumstances would employ to protect others from harm…‘Gross negligence’ long has been defined in California and other jurisdictions as either a ‘want of even scant care’ or ‘an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.’
Applying this legal theory to the examples listed above, a reasonable gym employee under similar circumstances probably would have picked up or moved the single dumbbell out of the way within 30 minutes. Since it was just one dumbbell and was only on the floor for 30 minutes, it likely would not rise to the level of gross negligence.
However, in a setting where people can get severely injured by tripping, the latter example where the gym employees never even attempted to monitor or inspect the floor in the high-traffic area would be consistent with a ‘want of even scant care’ and an ‘extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.’
An Experienced Attorney Can Explain Your Rights to You
Since 1995, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Salamati Law have achieved successful outcomes on behalf of personal injury victims here in California. We understand how the mere presence of a signed waiver can dissuade some victims from pursuing a legal claim. This is why we strongly recommend that you consult with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer who can evaluate the merits of your case and explain your rights to you.
Schedule Your Free Case Review Today
If you have questions about the enforceability of liability waivers here in California, call Salamati Law today to arrange your cost-free consultation. You will not receive a single bill unless you win your case.