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Electronic Signature on release in NY upheld.

Sign up for basketball game online included agreeing to a release.

Stephenson v. Food Bank for New York City, 2008 NY Slip Op 52322U; 21 Misc. 3d 1132A; 875 N.Y.S.2d 824; 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 6704; 240 N.Y.L.J. 82

The plaintiff in this case was decked by another basketball player. The plaintiff was part of a basketball league and playing the defendant’s team. During the game, the team members were “trash talking.” After the plaintiff was fouled, he was walking to the foul line and decked. He fell to the floor suffering a broken jaw.

The plaintiff sued the league and the opposing team claiming the league and team were “negligent in its supervision, operation and control of the basketball game, its league, the referees, and the Food Bank team, and in failing to have a representative at the game to properly monitor the actions of the players

The defendants filed the motion for summary judgment based on a release the plaintiff had signed online to register for the event and a sign in sheet he signed at the event.

The court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit stating the online release:

… the online release submitted by Stephenson expressly releases the League from injury caused by any negligence by the League and also indicates that the signer assumes the risk and accepts personal responsibility for not only his own “action, inactions or negligence but the actions, inactions or negligence of others”. Moreover, electronic signatures are valid under New York law (State Technology Law § 304 [2]).

The court held that an electronic signature was valid on a release in New York.

Another issue that is extremely important in this case that was raised by the plaintiff was the second assumption of risk form that he signed as part of the roster. The plaintiff argued that the assumption of risk form was signed after the electronic release, and therefore, it superseded the release. This can be a real issue if you have clients sign multiple releases.

Whenever there is a conflict of terms between documents, the language in the new document controls. The court found that there was no conflict between the two documents so the second document did not eliminate the first document.

So?

This case is very instructive and good news. There are hundreds of cases interpreting state electronic signature acts as well as the federal electronic signature act. However, this is the first case where an electronic signature was upheld when used for a release.

This is an important point you need to recognize. If you have a release for your program and your guests are going to sign a release or a contract, make sure the language of the documents does not conflict so that only one, usually the weaker one survives.

The releases must say that they do not cancel each other out and both work together, legally.
This is starting to become boring, I say it so often, but your release needs to be written by an attorney that understands your program and the legal issues.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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