Broadly written definition of entities covered by a release protects defendantPosted: April 15, 2013 | |
Since the bridge where the accident occurred is not a place of amusement, the release was not void because of the NY statute.
In this bicycling case, the defendant was injured in the Bike New York five borough bicycle tour. The tour was sponsored by the American Youth Hostels, Inc., The plaintiff must have been injured crossing the Triborough Bridge because he sued the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.
The trial court had dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, and the plaintiff had appealed.
Summary of the case
The first issue the court reviewed was whether the language in the release protected the defendant. The release was not in the opinion; however, the court did quote from the release. “…The release document specifically named the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (hereinafter the MTA) and “any other involved … representatives of the foregoing“
The court found the Triborough Bridge, and Tunnel Authority was controlled by a board of directors; all who were members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the court was able to find the Triborough Bridge Authority was protected by the release.
The next issue was whether the New York statute that prohibited releases was applicable. The statute states:
NY CLS Gen Oblig § 5-326 (2011)
§ 5-326. Agreements exempting pools, gymnasiums, places of public amusement or recreation and similar establishments from liability for negligence void and unenforceable
Every covenant, agreement or understanding in or in connection with, or collateral to, any contract, membership application, ticket of admission or similar writing, entered into between the owner or operator of any pool, gymnasium, place of amusement or recreation, or similar establishment and the user of such facilities, pursuant to which such owner or operator receives a fee or other compensation for the use of such facilities, which exempts the said owner or operator from liability for damages caused by or resulting from the negligence of the owner, operator or person in charge of such establishment, or their agents, servants or employees, shall be deemed to be void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable.
The key was whether the bridge was a place of amusement. The court found:
Contrary to the plaintiffs’ contention, the release is not invalidated pursuant to General Obligations Law § 5-326, since the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, where the plaintiff Tedesco was injured, is not a “place of amusement or recreation”.
So Now What?
You have to learn from mistakes. In the law, you need to learn from close calls. In this case, the defendant could have done two things to his release that might have helped prevent the litigation or the appeal.
If the parties that were to be protected by the release were all identified in the release the first claim on the appeal would not have happened. This might take one whole page of a release for something like “Bike New York.”
The paper used to stop a lawsuit is always less than the paperwork to sustain a lawsuit.
Second the release could have explicitly stated that the defendants were not places of amusement, and the event was also not a place of amusement. This might have been more tenuous; however, it is always worth the effort to add a sentence and take the risk.
Plaintiff: Theodore Tedesco
Defendant: Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority
Plaintiff Claims: Negligence?
Defendant Defenses: Release
Holding: The release was valid and stopped the claims of the plaintiff, holding for the defendant
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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