Life is a sexually transmitted disease that is always fatal.

Life is what happens while you are waiting to get organized.


There was a very cautious man

Who never laughed or played.

He never risked, he never tried,

He never sang or prayed.


And when he one day passed away

His insurance was denied.

For since he never really lived,

They claimed he never died!


From The Risk Homeostasis  and Risk Compensation Resource Centre

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Stuff Happens People need to know that!

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If you throw a throwbag incorrectly (yes there is now a right way and wrong way) that can be used to sue you. It used to be the correct way was the swimmer got the rope; incorrect way swimmer missed the rope.

Yo! Raft guides, ever been sued? New ASTM standard will now make that possible!

Well meaning, hardworking volunteers have no idea how they are helping to create lawsuits but here is the perfect example.

ASTM F1730 – 96(2014)

Standard Guide for Throwing a Water Rescue Throwbag

Active Standard ASTM F1730 | Developed by Subcommittee: F32.02

Book of Standards Volume:13.02

Here is how this standard is explained.

Significance and Use

3.1 This guide establishes a recommended procedure for a throwing rescue to ensure the safety of all water rescuers who may be involved in rescue techniques at a water rescue emergency.

3.2 This water rescue technique can be utilized from land, boat, or any stable platform.

3.3 All persons who are identified as water rescuers shall meet the requirements of this guide.

3.4 This guide is intended to assist government agencies, state, local, and regional organizations; fire departments; rescue teams and others who are responsible for establishing a minimum performance for personnel who respond to water emergencies.

3.5 The procedure outlined in the document may vary with the number and type of victims, and water conditions.

1. Scope

1.1 This guide covers the recommended procedures for throwing a water rescue throwbag.

1.2 This guide is one in a series of water rescue techniques for the water rescuer.

1.3 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

Does this apply to raft guides? I would say yes.

Is a raft guide a “water rescuer” who may be involved in rescue techniques at a water rescue emergency.” If so you have to meet the requirements of this guide.

Do you know the name of a group of people who meet this definition? “…others who are responsible for establishing a minimum performance for personnel….” They are called a jury.

Let’s see how this is a messed up idea.

You were a high school quarterback with a good arm. You can throw a throwbag just like a football with great accuracy.

You are right-handed and standing on shore next to a rock wall. There is not room to throw the throwbag underhanded.

You are on a 12’ raft in the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River. Does the definition of 3.2, which describes a boat as stable apply to you? Since your boat is not stable should you knot use your throwbag? Are you allowed to throw any way you can, if you are not stable?

Seriously, why is someone writing these things? Can’t they see how broadly this is written and how much damage it will do?

Look, someone is in the river it doesn’t matter if you are throwing the bag backwards, blindfolded standing on one leg in a pink tutu. If you get the rope to the swimmer, that was the correct way!!!


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A climbing wall or a rope’s course are structures. The components already have ASTM standards the sole issue is whether or not they were put together properly.

Operations need special reviews, but the structure is nothing that different from the building it is in or close too.

I’m always asked to recommend a person to check out a ropes course or a climbing wall. These people are looking for someone who may be self-appointed, maybe knowledgeable, (or maybe not) a person who makes a living check these.

I rarely refer them to someone with that title in the industry. I first ask them if a local contractor or engineer as ever looked at their course.

The structures have a different purpose than the carpenter or engineers are used to, but the construction should not be.

We keep forgetting that climbing walls and rope’s courses are just structures no different from a building.  Each of the components has an ASTM standard. An Engineer or contractor can check to see if it was constructed properly and what needs to be done to get it up to speed.

We forget that the foundation of any building or anything attacked to the building is engineering.

By whom and how often should you have your course inspected?

Any time you feel insecure about your course or wall or your insurance company requires it.

Who should inspect your course or wall?

An engineer or contract should inspect your course at least every couple of years or as the engineer or contractor tells you. You can bring in someone with the industry credentials in the other years or with them. You can have someone come in and look at your operation anytime.

I tell my clients to find another operator and trade days. Go check out their course on one day and have them check out your course on another day. That will spot issues you may have, and you probably will learn some new ideas. No use having “inspectors” only who knows new ways of doing things.

I would suspect that if you are part of a larger organization, a college, university or camp that the company or college engineer will tell you when and how often they want the structure inspected.

A bolt is a bolt, whether it holds up a wall or a climbing wall.

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The Boy Scouts of America are not liable because they owed no duty, they did not own the camp. Negligence requires a duty, and no duty exists if you are not the owners, manager, supervisor or someone who is liable.

The BSA was dismissed because the plaintiff was unable to prove the BSA supervised, owned or managed the camp where he was injured. The BSA had no custody or control of the camp. The plaintiff also failed to argue that a rule, policy, regulation or procedure of the camp had been violated.

Gomes v. Boy Scouts of America, et al., 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4622; 2013 NY Slip Op 32453(U)

Date of the Decision: October 9, 2013

Plaintiff: Davide E. Gomes

Defendant: Boy Scouts of America, et al.,

Plaintiff Claims: failure to keep the area safe, in good repair, well-lit and free from obstruction or defect and supervise him and the other scouts

Defendant Defenses:

Holding: For the defendant Boy Scouts of America

The plaintiff, a 13-year-old Boy Scout fell leaving the shower area at a BSA council camp. He sustained injuries and sued the Boy Scouts of America and other parties.

The Boy Scouts of America moved for a dismissal claiming they were not the owners, in control of, or supervisors of the camp. The camp was owned by the Northern New Jersey Council, BSA. The Northern New Jersey Council is a separate legal entity from the Boy Scouts of America.

There was disputed testimony, whether the plaintiff was running (from witnesses) or walking along the path where he fell. It was lit inside the shower area but not lit outside. The plaintiff had a headlamp with him. During discovery, the plaintiff admitted he did not remember what happened that caused him to fall.

The BSA moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court leading to this appeal.

Summary of the case

The arguments in the case are simple. Did the Boy Scouts of America own, manage, supervise or run the camp or was the camp owned by a third party. The court referred to the legal phrase, did the BSA have “custody and control” of the camp. A Boy Scout Council is a separate and distinct entity from the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America grants a charter (sort of like a license) to promote and use the Boy Scout program to the youth in the council’s geographic area. Boy Scout councils own camps like this one where the plaintiff was injured. The title on the deed is Northern New Jersey Council, Boy Scouts of America, not Boy Scouts of America.

The court looked at several other cases, which found the same way.

…BSA not liable for alleged negligence of charter BSA Council as there was no agency relationship between it and Council, and it lacked requisite supervision, direction, or control over adult leader who had custody of Scouts during trip at issue….

…where plaintiff died while on Scout trip, BSA granted summary judgment as it exercised no supervisory control over troop or adult leaders who accompanied scouts on trip….

The court also quoted a decision where a Council was not liable for the acts of a volunteer because the Council did not have control over the Scoutmaster. “…absent evidence that Council had supervision or control over day-to-day activities of Scout troop or scoutmaster, it could not be held liable for scoutmaster’s alleged negligent supervision…”

What caught my eye in this decision was this statement by the court.

Here, there is no issue of very young campers being unsupervised or placed in risky circumstances as plaintiff and his fellow scouts were all teenagers and there is no evidence that any camp policy was violated or that BSA had any control over the camp’s operation.

Here the court might have ruled differently if it had found that the policy of the camp had been violated.

So Now What?

The first issue is agency or ownership. The Boy Scouts of America were not liable to the camper because the BSA did not own, supervise or manage the particular piece of property where the scout was hurt. You can’t sue someone for negligence, unless they owed a duty to you. If you don’t own, manager or supervise the place where the plaintiff was injured you can’t be negligent because you owe no duty to that person.

Of greater interest is the fact the camp had no policies that were violated, which lead to the injury of the plaintiff. As a camp director of a BSA, GSA or any other camp or operation, you need to understand that the rules, regulations, policies and procedures that you write for your camp are going to be used as the rule, the standard, against which you will be judged at trial.

Don’t write rules, policies, regulations, or policies you can’t live up to.

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Gomes v. Boy Scouts of America, et al., 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4622; 2013 NY Slip Op 32453(U)

Gomes v. Boy Scouts of America, et al., 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4622; 2013 NY Slip Op 32453(U)

[**2] Davide E. Gomes, Plaintiff, -against- Boy Scouts of America, et al., Defendants.

Index No. 115435/10


2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4622; 2013 NY Slip Op 32453(U)

October 9, 2013, Decided


CORE TERMS: scout, campers, shower, notice, supervision, negligent supervision, summary judgment, assault, leader, lit, triable issue, scoutmaster, supervise, troop, adult, older, trip, discovery, dangerous condition, duty to supervise, prior conduct, unanticipated, accompanied, negligently, supervised, assaulted, charter, oppose, fellow, bunks

COUNSEL: [*1] For plaintiff: Scott W. Epstein, Esq., Antich, Erlich & Epstein, LLP, New York, NY.

For Patrick Loureiro: Harvey Gladstein, Esq., Gladstein Keane & Partners LLC, New York, NY.

For Boy Scouts of America: Brian P. Morrissey, Esq., Connell Foley LLP, New York, NY.

For Bryan Barbosa: Charles J. Sosnick, Esq., Law Office of James J. Toomey, Esq., New York, NY.

For Michael Medeiros: Ann P. Eccher, Esq., Smith Mazure et al., New York, NY.

JUDGES: PRESENT: Barbara Jaffe, Justice.

OPINION BY: Barbara Jaffe





By notice of motion, defendant Boy Scouts of America (BSA) moves pursuant to CPLR 3212 for an order summarily dismissing the complaint against it. Plaintiff and defendant Loureiro oppose.

By notice of motion, defendant Michael Medeiros moves for an order precluding plaintiff from introducing at trial certain evidence based on his failure to respond to discovery demands. Plaintiff opposes.

The motions are consolidated for disposition.


On July 24, 2005, plaintiff, then a 13-year-old Boy Scout, was participating in a Boy [**3] Scout excursion at Floodwood Mountain Scout Reservation in the Adirondacks. Plaintiff was a member of Boy Scout Troop 141. He and [*2] other scouts were accompanied by volunteer adult leaders. Near or in the shower house at the Reservation, plaintiff sustained head injuries. (NYSCEF 19).

In accident and witness reports created after the accident, the other scouts who were at the showers at the time of plaintiff’s accident stated that they saw plaintiff run from the shower area and discovered him lying prone on the ground and bleeding. None of them saw him fall. (NYSCEF).

In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that as he was walking along the common area and/or grassy area at or near the showers, he fell due to defendants’ failure to keep the area safe, in good repair, well-lit and free from obstruction or defect and supervise him and the other scouts. As to BSA, plaintiff alleges that it owned, operated, controlled, maintained, managed, and inspected the Reservation and camp grounds and supervised the activities held there. (NYSCEF 17).

In plaintiff’s supplemental verified bill of particulars, he describes the dangerous condition which caused his fall as follows: “that the area in front of the showers where the [ ] accident occurred was not lit, and/or was poorly lit, and/or was inadequately lit; was raised and [*3] un-leveled, and had rocks and/or tree limbs/branches strewn about it,” all of which defendants had constructive notice. (NYSCEF 22).

At an examination before trial held on December 16, 2011, plaintiff testified that he did not recall his accident or what had caused his fall, and that his last memory before falling was of walking to the showers. At the time of his accident, it was dark outside and there was no lighting [**4] outside the showers, although it was lit inside, and he noticed that there were many rocks on the ground around the shower house. He was wearing a working head lamp as he approached the showers. (NYSCEF 25).

By affidavit dated July 25, 2012, Todd McGregor, area director for BSA’s Northeast Region, states that BSA grants charters to local scout councils and organizations to operate scouting groups or units, that the Reservation and camp grounds were owned and operated by Northern New Jersey Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America, and that no BSA employees were in staff positions at the camp when plaintiff was injured, nor did BSA supervise the scouts or maintain the grounds. (NYSCEF 39).


Based on McGregor’s affidavit, BSA has established, prima [*4] facie, that it may not be held liable to plaintiff for the alleged dangerous condition at the Reservation or the alleged assault upon plaintiff by another scout. (See Entler v Koch, 85 AD3d 1098, 928 N.Y.S.2d 297 [2d Dept 2011], lv denied 18 NY3d 869, 962 N.E.2d 275, 938 N.Y.S.2d 851 [2012] [BSA not liable for alleged negligence of charter BSA Council as there was no agency relationship between it and Council, and it lacked requisite supervision, direction, or control over adult leader who had custody of Scouts during trip at issue]; O’Lear v Boy Scouts of Am., 33 AD3d 685, 821 N.Y.S.2d 903 [2d Dept 2006] [where plaintiff died while on Scout trip, BSA granted summary judgment as it exercised no supervisory control over troop or adult leaders who accompanied scouts on trip]; Pitkewicz v Boy Scouts of Am., Inc. – Suffolk County Council, 261 AD2d 462, 690 N.Y.S.2d 119 [2d Dept 1999] [absent evidence that Council had supervision or control over day-to-day activities of Scout troop or scoutmaster, it could not be held liable for scoutmaster's alleged negligent supervision]; Alessi v Boy Scouts of Am. Greater Niagara Frontier Council, Inc., 247 [**5] AD2d 824, 668 N.Y.S.2d 838 [4th Dept 1998] [neither BSA nor Council held liable for acts of scoutmaster]).

Plaintiff’s claim that BSA may be held liable [*5] for negligent supervision based on his claim that he was assaulted by other scouts does not raise a triable issue absent evidence that BSA had or violated a duty to supervise the scouts at the Reservation or that it knew of any prior conduct that would have put it on notice of a potential assault by another scout. (See eg Buchholz v Patchogue-Medford School Dist., 88 AD3d 843, 931 N.Y.S.2d 113 [2d Dept 2011] [injuries caused by impulsive, unanticipated act of fellow student will not give rise to negligent supervision claim absent proof of prior conduct that would have put reasonable person on notice]; Ullrich v Bronx House Community Ctr., 99 AD3d 472, 952 N.Y.S.2d 32 [1st Dept 2012] [community center not liable for assault on player during basketball game as it was unprovoked and unanticipated, there was no warning of impending assault, and thus it occurred in such short span of time that "even most intense supervision could not have prevented it"]).

In Phelps v Boy Scouts of Am., on which plaintiff relies, “very young campers” were placed in bunks at a camp with “much older campers,” who allegedly assaulted the young campers. The court denied summary judgment to BSA, finding that there were triable issues as to whether [*6] the camp negligently supervised the campers and whether BSA had “sufficient control over the operation of the camp” to be held liable for the camp’s negligent supervision. (305 AD2d 335, 762 N.Y.S.2d 32 [1st Dept 2003]). The court observed that a summer camp has a duty to supervise its campers as would a parent of ordinary prudence in similar circumstances, and that constant supervision in a camp setting is neither desirable nor feasible. However, the court also allowed that very young campers often require closer supervision than older campers, and that placing the younger campers in the bunks with the older campers was an apparent violation of camp policy.

[**6] Here, there is no issue of very young campers being unsupervised or placed in risky circumstances as plaintiff and his fellow scouts were all teenagers and there is no evidence that any camp policy was violated or that BSA had any control over the camp’s operation. (See Kosok v Young Men’s Christian Assn. of Greater New York, 24 AD2d 113, 264 N.Y.S.2d 123 [1st Dept 1965], affd 19 NY2d 935, 228 N.E.2d 398, 281 N.Y.S.2d 341 [1967] [finding that camp operator did not negligently supervise activities of campers of high school age for short period as "certain amount of horseplay is almost always to be [*7] found in gatherings of young people, and is generally associated with children’s camps” and is only discouraged when it becomes dangerous and camp operator had no notice that it was likely to do so; however, situation is different when very young children involved]).

Moreover, to the extent that plaintiff relies on a “Leaders’ Guide” which allegedly sets forth requirements for the supervision of scouts, BSA denies that it was involved with its preparation or that it reviewed, approved, or was aware of it. (NYSCEF 79). Plaintiff has thus failed to raise a triable issue as to BSA’s liability.


Defendant Michael Medeiros’s motion to preclude is granted solely to the extent of directing plaintiff to respond to his June 8, 2012 discovery demands and setting the matter down for a compliance conference.


Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED, that defendant Boy Scouts of America’s motion for summary judgment is granted, and the complaint and any cross claims against it are severed and dismissed, with costs and disbursements to said defendant as taxed by the Clerk upon the submission of an appropriate [**7] bill of costs, and the Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly; [*8] it is further

ORDERED, that defendant Michael Medeiros’s motion to preclude is granted solely to the extent of directing plaintiff to respond to his June 8, 2012 discovery demands within 20 days of service on plaintiff of a copy of this order with notice of entry; and it is further

ORDERED, that the remaining parties in the consolidated action are directed to appear for a compliance conference on November 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm, in Room 279 at 80 Centre Street, New York, New York.


/s/ Barbara Jaffe

Barbara Jaffe, JSC

DATED: October 9, 2013

New York, New York

Yauger v. Skiing Enterprises, Inc., 196 Wis. 2d 485; 538 N.W.2d 834; 1995 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1022

Yauger v. Skiing Enterprises, Inc., 196 Wis. 2d 485; 538 N.W.2d 834; 1995 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1022

Michael Yauger and Brenda Yauger, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Skiing Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Hidden Valley Ski Area, a Wisconsin corporation, and Investors Insurance Company of America, a foreign corporation, Defendants-Respondents.

No. 94-2683


196 Wis. 2d 485; 538 N.W.2d 834; 1995 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1022

July 12, 1995, Oral Argument

August 23, 1995, Opinion Released

August 23, 1995, Opinion Filed

PRIOR HISTORY: [***1] APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for Manitowoc County: ALLAN J. DEEHR, Judge.


COUNSEL: On behalf of the plaintiffs-appellants, the cause was submitted on the briefs of Gary L. Bendix and John M. Bruce of Savage, Gregorski, Webster, Stangel & Bendix, S.C. of Manitowoc. There was oral argument by John M. Bruce.

On behalf of the defendants-respondents, there was a brief and oral argument by Thomas B. Hartley of Guttormsen, Hartley & Guttormsen of Kenosha.

JUDGES: Before Anderson, P.J., Brown and Snyder, JJ.



[**836] [*490] BROWN, J. We are asked to gauge whether the exculpatory contract in this case is void as against public policy. Here, Brenda and Michael Yauger brought a wrongful death action against Hidden Valley Ski Area after their eleven-year-old daughter, Tara, was killed when she struck the concrete base of a ski lift tower. The trial court dismissed the claim finding that the [*491] Yaugers’ contract with Hidden Valley for a season pass contained a valid exculpatory clause. The Yaugers now reassert their challenge that [***2] it is void.

The following facts were taken from the appellate record consisting of the pleadings, affidavits and depositions. On October 8, 1992, Michael Yauger submitted an application for a family season pass at Hidden Valley. This form is reproduced at the end of the opinion. The pass cost roughly $ 720. Although only Michael signed the application, his wife and two daughters (then ages ten and eight) were named on the form. Depositions reveal that Michael submitted the application in person at the Hidden Valley Ski Shop.

The Yauger family was familiar with Hidden Valley. Michael had skied there approximately sixty times in the three seasons prior to the accident, and Tara had skied there about fifty times prior to her accident. The record also shows that the Yauger family had a season pass at the resort the prior year.

On March 7, 1993, Tara suffered her fatal accident. The exact facts surrounding her death are unsettled, but the record currently suggests that she struck the side of a concrete base of a ski lift tower. The Yaugers sued Hidden Valley that October, claiming that this support was not adequately padded.

After limited discovery, Hidden Valley and its insurer [***3] sought summary judgment on grounds that the exculpatory release within the Yaugers’ contract for a season pass barred them from bringing this claim since it arose out of the “certain inherent risks in skiing.” The Yaugers responded that the clause was invalid as against public policy because it was not knowingly entered into by each of the Yaugers, was ambiguous and overbroad and also attempted to encompass protections provided under Wisconsin’s safe-place law.

[*492] The trial court granted Hidden Valley’s motion. It focused its analysis on the phrase “certain inherent risks in skiing” and reasoned that it covered the type of injury that killed Tara, namely, the risk that a skier will collide with a stationary object. It also rejected the Yaugers’ argument that Brenda Yauger was not bound by the exculpatory clause, finding that her express endorsement was not necessary since she received the benefit of the season pass.

We are reviewing a grant of summary judgment; thus, § 802.08(2), STATS., governs [**837] the analysis. See Decade’s Monthly Income and Appreciation Fund v. Whyte & Hirschboeck, S.C., 164 Wis. 2d 227, 230, 474 N.W.2d 766, 767 (Ct. App. 1991), aff’d, 173 Wis.2d 665, [***4] 495 N.W.2d 335 (1993). [HN1] Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no material issues of fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. Moreover, this appeal concerns the interpretation of a contract which appellate courts address de novo. Id. at 230-31, 474 N.W.2d at 767. Therefore, to defeat Hidden Valley’s motion for summary judgment the Yaugers must show that material facts are in dispute, or that the trial court erred in its analysis of the exculpatory clause. See id. at 230-31, 474 N.W.2d at 767.

We first turn to the analysis of the season pass and its exculpatory clause. Wisconsin law does not favor these agreements and courts therefore examine with care the facts of each case to ascertain whether enforcement will contravene public policy. See Merten v. Nathan, 108 Wis. 2d 205, 210-11, 321 N.W.2d 173, 176 (1982). The goal is to strike a balance between conflicting principles of contract and tort law. See id. at 211, 321 N.W.2d at 177. [HN2] Freedom of contract suggests that [*493] courts should abstain from interfering in people’s relationships and personal affairs. See id. On [***5] the other hand, tort law recognizes that those responsible for causing harm through negligence should bear the cost of the harm and should not be allowed to circumvent this duty through contract. See id. at 211-12, 321 N.W.2d at 177.

A review of the recent supreme court cases on this issue indicates that there are two aspects to the question of whether an exculpatory contract violates public policy. In Dobratz v. Thomson, 161 Wis. 2d 502, 468 N.W.2d 654 (1991), the court cited with approval § 195 of the RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS (1979), which sets out a series of situations in which an exculpatory contract would violate public policy. Id. at 515-16, 468 N.W.2d at 658-59 (citing Arnold v. Shawano County Agric. Soc’y, 111 Wis. 2d 203, 210-11, 330 N.W.2d 773, 777 (1983)). The first element tests the effect of the exculpatory clause, e.g., does it exempt an employer from suits by an employee. See id. 1

1 This two-prong analysis was also discussed in Discount Fabric House v. Wisconsin Telephone Co., 117 Wis. 2d 587, 602, 345 N.W.2d 417, 424-25 (1984), where the court faced a challenge to an exculpatory release that served to cover any errors in telephone directory advertising. The court explained that the analysis of such contracts involves an assessment of the “commercial reasonableness” of the terms (substantive) and the relationship between the parties during negotiations (procedural). Id.

[***6] The Yaugers’ assertion that the exculpatory clause in Hidden Valley’s season pass application contravenes the safe-place statute, § 101.11, STATS., fits this line of analysis. In further support of this argument they cite Meyer v. Val-Lo-Will Farms, Inc., 14 Wis. 2d 616, 111 [*494] N.W.2d 500 (1961), for the proposition that a for-profit winter sports park was subject to the safe-place law. In substance, they argue that the exculpatory clause violates public policy because it seeks to relieve Hidden Valley of the duty imposed by the statute. See RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 195(2)(c). 2 The trial court rejected this argument, reasoning that the safe-place statute did not create a special cause of action, but established a higher duty of care for what would ordinarily be addressed through common law negligence.

2 The applicability of the safe-place statute, § 101.11, STATS., in situations where frequenters challenge exculpatory contracts was raised, but left unanswered, in Kellar v. Lloyd, 180 Wis. 2d 162, 178-81, 509 N.W.2d 87, 93-94 (Ct. App. 1993).

[***7] While we agree with the trial court’s result, a different analysis is appropriate. Moreover, we need not decide the issue of whether the safe-place law imposed a special statutory duty on Hidden Valley. We hold that even if the statute does apply, a potential defendant may still bargain for an exclusion.

As noted above, the supreme court has endorsed § 195 of the RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS. See Merten, 108 Wis. 2d at 212-13, 321 N.W.2d at 177-78. 3 [*495] The [**838] official comment to this section, however, suggests that the enumerated standards are not a litmus test for these agreements; it states: “the rigor of this rule may, however, be mitigated by a fairly bargained for agreement to limit liability to a reasonable agreed value in return for a lower rate.” RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 195 cmt. a.

3 We recognize that the exact status of RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 195 (1979), is somewhat clouded. In Dobratz v. Thomson, 161 Wis. 2d 502, 515-16, 468 N.W.2d 654, 658-59 (1991), the court expressly quoted all the subsections after noting that it had originally “referred with approval” to them in Arnold v. Shawano County Agric. Soc’y, 111 Wis. 2d 203, 210-11, 330 N.W.2d 773, 777 (1983). When one examines the Arnold opinion, however, it includes only a general reference to the RESTATEMENT. Indeed, the rule in § 195(2)(c), which provides the basis for the Yaugers’ argument, was not referred to in the discussion. See Arnold, 111 Wis. 2d at 210-11, 330 N.W.2d at 777. Moreover, in the supreme court’s most recent exploration of these issues, the majority opinion made no reference to § 195, although it did reaffirm its confidence in the Dobratz decision. Richards v. Richards, 181 Wis. 2d 1007, 1014, 513 N.W.2d 118, 121 (1994). We have located a federal district court case in which the various subsections of § 195 were found to be a component of Wisconsin law and formed the basis for voiding an exculpatory contract. See RepublicBank Dallas, N.A. v. First Wisconsin Nat’l Bank, 636 F. Supp. 1470, 1473 (E.D. Wis. 1986) (voiding clause exempting liability for harm arising out of reckless or intentional acts). We thus find that § 195 continues to be a valid component of Wisconsin common law.

[***8] The process envisioned by the drafters of this comment aptly describes the transaction between the Yaugers and Hidden Valley. The Yaugers wanted a discount on their skiing. The resort was a willing supplier, but recognized that the increase in days skied would directly increase the risk of an accident and the potential for a damages claim. Hidden Valley therefore sought a release from liability. Gauging the deal at the time when the parties entered into the contract, we cannot say that the exchange was totally unreasonable. The Yaugers obtained their discount, but lost the right to bring a claim arising out of an accident which may never have occurred. Here, freedom of contract requires that we not delve deeper into the merits of this agreement. [*496] See Merten, 108 Wis. 2d at 211, 321 N.W.2d at 177. 4

4 Of course the above analysis certainly does not summarize all the concerns of the bargaining parties. The Yaugers and Hidden Valley were also making allowances for the risk that there would be no snow that season. The key to understanding our analysis, however, is to recognize that courts rarely are able to do a better job of writing contracts than the parties themselves.

[***9] The second prong of the public policy question entails examining the circumstances surrounding the bargaining process. See Dobratz, 161 Wis. 2d at 516 n.2, 468 N.W.2d at 659. For example, in Richards v. Richards, 181 Wis. 2d 1007, 1010, 513 N.W.2d 118, 119 (1994), 5 the supreme court was asked to review an exculpatory contract signed by a passenger in a commercial, long-haul truck. The plaintiff was married to a driver employed by the defendant and was asked to sign a “passenger authorization” before joining her husband on the road. Id. at 1012, 513 N.W.2d at 119. Within the form was a clause releasing the defendant from liability for any harm that might occur during her travels. Id. Still, the wife brought suit after she and her husband were involved in an accident. The lower courts found that the release was valid and granted summary [*497] judgment for the defendant. Id. at 1010, 513 N.W.2d at 119.

5 We discuss Richards in detail because it represents the supreme court’s most recent analysis of how flaws in the specific terms of an agreement, or the circumstances of the bargaining process, may serve as grounds for voiding an exculpatory agreement. For other examples, see Merten v. Nathan, 108 Wis. 2d 205, 214-15, 321 N.W.2d 173, 178 (1982) (release invalidated because defendant misrepresented a fact during the negotiation process), and Eder v. Lake Geneva Raceway, 187 Wis. 2d 596, 610-11, 523 N.W.2d 429, 434 (Ct. App. 1994) (release clause found to be ambiguous).

[***10] After its review of the contract, however, the supreme court found it to be void as contrary to public policy. Id. at 1011, 513 N.W.2d at 119. The majority pointed to three aspects of the agreement, which together led to this conclusion. First, the contract served two purposes. The court emphasized that the exculpatory clause was not distinguishable from other components of the document. It reasoned that highlighting the release provision would have provided greater protection for the signing party. See id. at 1017, 513 N.W.2d at 122.

Next, the court found that the contract was over-inclusive. It applied not only to the [**839] defendant, but also to all of its affiliates. Moreover, it did not delineate the nature of claims that would be excluded, such as those arising from negligence but not from intentional acts. Also, the time period through which the exclusion would apply was not limited. The majority found that the contract was lopsided in favor of the defendant and should therefore be construed against the company. See id. at 1017-18, 513 N.W.2d at 122.

Finally, the court noted that the release was embodied in a standard form contract, and the defendant [***11] did not inform the plaintiff of the purpose and effect of the authorization. This suggested that there was little or no opportunity to dicker about the terms. Id. at 1019, 513 N.W.2d at 123.

The Yaugers cite Richards and raise a number of arguments, each suggesting that they and Hidden Valley were not on equal footing when they entered into this agreement. The many issues they raise can be distilled into three central points. First, the Yaugers contend that the release clause, which was a single [*498] term in the season pass application, was never pointed out to Michael before he completed and signed the form. See Richards, 181 Wis. 2d at 1019, 513 N.W.2d at 123. They further assert that summary judgment was inappropriate because Hidden Valley presented no evidence on this issue.

We are not persuaded. This agreement was signed in October, at least one month prior to the skiing season. There was no sense of urgency. Michael could have taken the form home for further consideration. In addition, the Yaugers had purchased a season pass for the prior year. Therefore, Michael had a source of knowledge from which to draw comparisons. Compare Eder v. Lake [***12] Geneva Raceway, 187 Wis. 2d 596, 609, 523 N.W.2d 429, 433 (Ct. App. 1994)(noting that parties signing the release were not allowed onto the racetrack grounds until they signed the release form).

Next, the Yaugers assert that the language within the exculpatory clause is ambiguous. It specifically addressed “certain inherent risks in skiing.” They question what constitutes these “inherent risks” and whether the clause only applies to a “certain” number of these dangers. In addition, they note that Hidden Valley did not provide any evidence which would identify these risks. The Yaugers also raise concerns that the clause (which is composed of a single sentence) reads to limit Hidden Valley’s liability for any injury occurring on the premises. They stress that this could be reasonably interpreted as an attempt to limit the resort’s liability for any accident on the premises, such as a slip and fall in the restaurant. See Richards, 181 Wis. 2d at 1017-18, 513 N.W.2d at 122.

The trial court concluded that the terminology covered the obvious dangers in skiing, viz, falling down or [*499] colliding with another skier or a fixed object, and that the “any injury” language was limited [***13] to those harms arising out of these risks. We agree.

[HN3] Whether a contract is ambiguous is a question of law. Borchardt v. Wilk, 156 Wis. 2d 420, 427, 456 N.W.2d 653, 656 (Ct. App. 1990). We test whether the term is reasonable or fairly susceptible of more than one construction. Id. [HN4] A clause is not ambiguous, however, merely because its language is general or broad. See Wilke v. First Federal Savs. & Loan Ass’n, 108 Wis. 2d 650, 654, 323 N.W.2d 179, 181 (Ct. App. 1982).

This was a contract between Hidden Valley and a season pass holder. The contracting skier, therefore, could reasonably be expected to have some knowledge about the sport. The Yaugers’ interest in skiing is further demonstrated by their willingness to commit over seven hundred dollars to skiing that season. 6 The record also reveals that the Yaugers had a similar pass at the resort the prior year. We are thus hesitant to accept their arguments that such language would lead to confusion among parties executing these agreements. The language is plain and simple. It aptly describes the risks that [**840] arise whenever one’s skis are in contact with the slope. 7

6 The season pass was not refundable.


7 Very similar language can be found in Wisconsin’s recreational responsibility law. See § 895.525(3), STATS. (“A participant in a recreational activity … accepts the risks inherent in the recreational activity ….”) (emphasis added). Moreover, several states have adopted specific skier responsibility laws which codify these terms. For example, Colorado law provides, in part:

“Inherent dangers and risks of skiing” means those dangers or conditions which are an integral part of the sport of skiing, including changing weather conditions; snow conditions as they exist or may change, such as ice, hard pack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, corn, crust, slush, cut-up snow, and machine-made snow; surface or subsurface conditions such as bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, and trees, or other natural objects, and collisions with such natural objects; impact with lift towers, signs, posts, fences or enclosures, hydrants, water pipes, other man-made structures and their components; variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or as a result of slope design, snowmaking or grooming operations, including but not limited to roads and catwalks or other terrain modifications; collisions with other skiers; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.

COLO. REV. STAT. ANN. § 33-44-103(10) (West Supp. 1994) (emphasis added).

Further discussion of these laws, and judicial efforts in providing interpretation, are set forth in Arthur N. Frakt and Janna S. Rankin, Surveying the Slippery Slope: The Questionable Value of Legislation to Limit Ski Area Liability, 28 IDAHO L. REV. 227 (1991-92).

[***15] [*500] Finally, the Yaugers argue that the exculpatory clause should be held void because it was “not clearly identified or distinguished.” See Richards, 181 Wis. 2d at 1017, 513 N.W.2d at 122.

The trial court noted that although the exculpatory language was not highlighted, there was no indication that it was disguised and therefore did not provide grounds for rendering the agreement void. Indeed, the clause is set out in a separate paragraph.

Any break in text requires the reader to pause and thus provides a moment for reflection.

The face of the application does not otherwise suggest that Hidden Valley was trying to trick season pass holders into signing away their rights. It was an application form. Not only did the applicants have to sign the agreement, but they had to furnish information [*501] such as their address, age, other family member names, etc. In sum, the form and application process provided ample opportunity for Michael to consider the terms of the agreement.

We have addressed a variety of concerns about the exculpatory clause of the season pass contract. Although no single point is troublesome enough to render the clause void, Richards suggests that [***16] courts may consider all these aspects together when making a determination about the effects of public policy. See id. at 1011, 513 N.W.2d at 119. But even the totality of the circumstances presented here does not warrant that this contract be set aside. The contracting process simply does not raise any concern of overreaching by the party seeking to be released from liability. 8

8 The Yaugers raised one other challenge to the exculpatory clause relating to the contract language. They assert that under Hortman v. Otis Erecting Co., 108 Wis. 2d 456, 463, 322 N.W.2d 482, 485-86 (Ct. App. 1982), an agreement which indemnifies a party for its own negligence must specifically include the term “negligence.” As the defendants contend, however, this specific argument was not presented to the trial court and is therefore waived on appeal. See, e.g., Bank One, Appleton, N.A. v. Reynolds, 176 Wis. 2d 218, 222, 500 N.W.2d 337, 339 (Ct. App. 1993).

We now turn to the second issue presented. [***17] Although we have found that the exculpatory clause serves as a bar to the Yaugers’ claim, Brenda nonetheless asserts that it should not run against her individually since she did not expressly acknowledge these terms, nor did she authorize her husband to execute a contract releasing these claims. In support of her argument, she draws an analogy to Arnold v. Shawano County Agri. Soc’y, 111 Wis. 2d 203, 214-15, 330 N.W.2d 773, 779 (1983), where the court held that a [*502] spouse’s claim for consortium rights is not defeated by a valid exculpatory contract running against the deceased.

In dismissing this claim the trial court distinguished Arnold, stating:

In this case the plaintiff Brenda Yauger did not sign the application, but the application was made on her behalf and for her [**841] benefit, which is not the factual situation in Arnold. And she is specifically identified and money is specifically paid for her membership, for her use, and the use of her daughter ….

Although we agree in substance with the trial court’s analysis, we feel it necessary to elaborate further. We add that Brenda’s claim is barred by the exculpatory clause because it is so intertwined [***18] with that of her husband, and thus it was reasonable for Hidden Valley to assume that Michael was acting on her behalf when he executed the agreement.

The Yaugers’ claim has three components: loss of consortium, Tara’s medical expenses and the cost of her funeral. See § 895.04(4), STATS. The right to pursue a claim for these losses accrues to Michael and Brenda as the “parents of the deceased.” See id. This is not a situation in which one parent’s recovery is limited or barred by his or her negligence. See § 895.04(7). This distinction recently was addressed in Chang v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 182 Wis. 2d 549, 561, 514 N.W.2d 399, 403 (1994), where the court noted: “the right to sue and recover damages under the wrongful death statute must be distinguished from the ownership and allocation of the recovery itself.”

Brenda alleges that she never authorized her husband to enter into this exculpatory clause (and bargain [*503] away her right to pursue a potential claim), nor was she aware of its effects. Nevertheless, she shared equally in the benefits that arose to her family, and the face of the application form would suggest that all [***19] named parties are bound by its terms.

Although there is little case law applying the principles of agency in transactions between married persons and third parties, Smart v. Estate of Ford, 23 Wis. 2d 60, 65-66, 126 N.W.2d 573, 576 (1964), summarized the Wisconsin rule that third parties may reasonably believe that one spouse had authority to act on behalf of the other. Here, we are dealing with the Yaugers’ joint interest in the companionship of their beloved daughter. Michael completed the season pass application on behalf of his whole family and paid the appropriate sum. Absent any evidence that Brenda informed Hidden Valley that she was not bound by this agreement, the Yaugers should both be held by the terms of the application.

By the Court.–Judgment affirmed.

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