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Montreat College Virtuoso Series 2 Day Outdoor Recreation Management, Insurance & Law Program

2 packed Days with information you can put to use immediately. Information compiled from 30 years in court and 45 years in the field.get_outside_12066-2

Whatever type of Program you have, you’ll find information and answers to your risk management, insurance and legal questions.

CoverYou’ll also receive a copy of my new book Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management, and Law

Get these Questions Answered

What has changed in the law Concerning Releases? What states still allow releases and which ones do not. What changes have been made in how releases are written? How can you make sure your release is not as affected by these changes?

Everyone is excited about Certificates of Insurance. Why this excitement is not valid and why most of them don’t work. What must you do to make a certificate of insurance work for your program?

What is an assumption of risk document and why are they important. How can your website be used to prove assumption of the risk.

How should you write a risk management plan that does not end up being used against you in court?

How do you handle an accident so it does not become a claim or a lawsuit.

Put February 24 & 25th on your Calendar Now.

Course Curriculum

1.    Assumption of the Risk

1.1. Still a valid defense in all states

1.2. Defense for claims by minors in all states

1.3. Proof of your guests assuming the risk is the tough part.

1.3.1.   Paperwork proves what they know

1.3.1.1.       Applications

1.3.1.2.       Releases

1.3.1.3.       Brochures

1.3.2.   The best education is from your website

1.3.2.1.       Words

1.3.2.2.       Pictures

1.3.2.3.       Videos

2.    Releases

2.1. Where they work

2.1.1.   Where they work for kids

2.2. Why they work

2.2.1.   Contract

2.2.2.   Exculpatory Clause

2.2.3.   Necessary Language

2.2.4.   What kills Releases

2.2.4.1.       Jurisdiction & Venue

2.2.4.2.       Assumption of the Risk

2.2.4.3.       Negligence Per Se

2.2.4.4.        

3.    Risk Management Plans

3.1. Why yours won’t work

3.2. Why they come back and prove your negligence in court

3.2.1.   Or at least make you look incompetent

3.3. What is needed in a risk management plan

3.3.1.   How do you structure and create a plan

3.3.2.   Top down writing or bottom up.

3.3.2.1.       Goal is what the front line employee knows and can do

4.    Dealing with an Incident

4.1. Why people sue

4.2. What you can do to control this

4.2.1.   Integration of pre-trip education

4.2.2.   Post Incident help

4.2.3.   Post Incident communication

You can decided how your program is going to run!blind_leading_blind_pc_1600_clr

hikers_1600_clr_9598

Put the date on your calendar now: February 24 and 25th 2017 at Montreat College, Montreat, NC 28757

$399 for both days and the book!

For more information contact Jim Moss rec.law@recreation.law.com

To register contact John Rogers , Montreat College Team and Leadership Center Director, jrogers@montreat.edu (828) 669- 8012 ext. 2761

 

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TUSA Recalls Diving Computers Due to Drowning and Injury Hazards

Hazard: The dive computer can malfunction and display an incorrect reading to the diver, posing a drowning and injury hazard due to decompression sickness.

Remedy: Replace

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled diving computers and contact TUSA to receive a free replacement diving computer.

Consumer Contact: TUSA at 800-482-2282 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or online at http://www.tusa.com/us-en and click on “Recall” for more information.

Photos available at: https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2017/TUSA-Recalls-Diving-Computers

Units: About 175

Description: This recall involves TUSA DC Solar Link IQ1204 diving computers. The black or white and blue wrist-watch style diving computers have a digital screen. TUSA is printed on the front of the diving computer. The model number and serial number is printed on the back of the diving computer below “TUSA DC Solar Link.” Recalled diving computers have serial numbers 6TA0001 – 6TA2864. 

Incidents/Injuries: None reported

Sold at: Sporting goods stores nationwide from March 2016 through June 2016 for about $750.

Importer/Distributor: Tabata USA Inc. (TUSA), of Long Beach, Calif.

Manufactured in: Japan

Retailers: If you are a retailer of a recalled product you have a duty to notify your customers of a recall. If you can, email your clients or include the recall information in your next marketing communication to your clients. Post any Recall Poster at your stores and contact the manufacturer to determine how you will handle any recalls.

For more information on this see:

For Retailers

Recalls Call for Retailer Action

A recall leads to lawsuits because injuries are connected to the product being recalled thus a lawsuit. Plaintiff’s hope the three can be connected

Combination of a Products Liability statute, an Expert Witness Report that was just not direct enough and odd facts holds a retailer liable as manufacture for product defect.

Product Liability takes a different turn. You must pay attention, just not rely on the CPSC.

Retailer has no duty to fit or instruct on fitting bicycle helmet

Summary Judgment granted for bicycle manufacturer and retailer on a breach of warranty and product liability claim.

For Manufacturers

The legal relationship created between manufactures and US consumers

A recall leads to lawsuits because injuries are connected to the product being recalled thus a lawsuit. Plaintiff’s hope the three can be connected

Combination of a Products Liability statute, an Expert Witness Report that was just not direct enough and odd facts holds a retailer liable as manufacture for product defect.

clip_image002What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

To Purchase Go Here:

Copyright 2016 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

Google+: +Recreation

Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog: www.recreation-law.com

Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com

By Recreation Law    Rec-law@recreation-law.com         James H. Moss

 

 

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, Recall, CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Council, TUSA, , Diving Computers, Drowning, Scuba, Diving, Scuba Diving,

 

 


Mississippi Supreme Court makes it almost impossible to write a release that is enforceable because the court does not give direction as to what it wants.

Dissent slams the majority and rightly so for ignoring the fact the plaintiff was drunk before his scuba accident and signed the release fraudulently.

Turnbough v. Ladner, 754 So. 2d 467; 1999 Miss. LEXIS 375

State: Mississippi

Plaintiff: Michael Turnbough

Defendant: Janet Ladner

Plaintiff Claims: negligence in planning and supervising dives

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: for the Plaintiff

Year: 1999

This is a simple case with disastrous results for providers of recreation activities in Mississippi.

The plaintiff was  certified as a scuba diving in the 80’s.  He wanted to start diving again so he took another scuba course from the defendant. Before taking the course the plaintiff was given a release to sign.

The plaintiff leaned over to another student in the class who was an attorney and asked the attorney if the release was enforceable. The attorney said no.

Upon learning from Ladner that all the participants would be required to execute a release in favor of her and the Gulfport Yacht Club in order to participate in the class, Turnbough questioned a fellow student who also happened to be an attorney. After Turnbough’s classmate informed him that such releases were unenforceable, Turnbough then executed the document entitled “Liability Release and Express Assumption of Risk.”

The class was over six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, there were four open water dives. The first two dives were from a beach. The plaintiff’s first beach dive was cut short because his tank was leaking. The plaintiff had no problems on the second dive.

The next day the open-water  dives were from a boat. The dives were supposed to be to a depth of 60’. However, boat had problems so the first dive was only to 48’. The second dive went to 60′, and the dive instructor calculated the dive was to last 38 minutes.

On the way home that night the plaintiff started to experience the bends. The plaintiff spent five days attempting to get in touch with the dive instructor who when reached on Friday, told him to call a dive hotline. The hotline told him to get to a dive hospital, in New Orleans. The plaintiff got to the hospital and seems to have recovered from the bends but was told he could never dive again.

The plaintiff sued. The trial court dismissed the complaint based upon a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant based upon the release. The appellate court upheld that decision, and the plaintiff appealed the decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court which issued this opinion.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The court first looked at the law of releases in Mississippi. The first statement, laws are looked upon with disfavor in Mississippi, was actually a true statement in this case by this court. (A first.) “The law does not look with favor on contracts intended to exculpate a party from the liability of his or her own negligence, although, with some exceptions, they are enforceable.”

The court then continued and laid out the requirements for a release to be valid, which at best are lost enough to make any release difficult to determine if it might even be valid.

However, such agreements are subject to close judicial scrutiny and are not upheld unless the intention of the parties is expressed in clear and unmistakable language. “Clauses limiting liability are given rigid scrutiny by the courts, and will not be enforced unless the limitation is fairly and honestly negotiated and understandingly entered into.

The wording of an exculpatory agreement should express as clearly and precisely as possible the extent to which a party intends to be absolved from liability. Failing that, we do not sanction broad, general “waiver of negligence” provisions, and strictly construe them against the party asserting them as a defense.

Deciphering the Supreme Court statements, a release in Mississippi must:

·        The intention must be expressed in clear and unmistakable language.

·        The limitation in the release is fair and honestly negotiated.

·        The language must be clear and precisely written that absolves a party of liability.

Meaning you must use the term negligence in a release in Mississippi, and that negligence must refer specifically to the actions of the defendant that are intended to be precluded. Those actions must specifically include the actions the plaintiff is complaining of. The language stating the defendant is not liable must be clear and precisely written.

The court then muddied the waters further with this statement: “In further determining the extent of exemption from liability in releases, this Court has looked to the intention of the parties in light of the circumstances existing at the time of the instrument’s execution.

The court then justified its reasoning with this equally confusing and muddled statement.

Assuming Turnbough was aware of the inherent risks in scuba diving, it does not reasonably follow that he, a student, intended to waive his right to recover from Ladner for failing to follow even the most basic industry safety standards.

The court then went back to explain what was required in a release in Mississippi.

We have held in Quinn that contracts attempting to limit the liabilities of one of the parties would not “be enforced unless the limitation is fairly and honestly negotiated and understood by both parties.”

As we saw in Oregon (See Oregon Supreme Court finds release signed at ski area is void as a violation of public policy.) the requirements for negotiation are almost fatal. The guest must have the opportunity to change the terms or the release or negotiate a way to avoid the release by paying more money or other such opportunity.

Then the court reinforced the requirements that the release be negotiated.

In this case, Turnbough signed a pre-printed contract, the terms of which were not negotiated. Since the contract was not negotiated and contained a broad waiver of negligence provision, the terms of the contract should be strictly construed against the party seeking to enforce such a provision.

The court concluded:

Although waivers are commonly used and necessary for some activities and the attendant risks and hazards associated with them, those who wish to relieve themselves from responsibility associated with a lack of due care or negligence should do so in specific and unmistakable terms. The agreement in this case fails to do that.

There was a dissent in this case, which brought out several factual issues seemingly ignored by the rest of the Supreme Court and looked at the legal issues in a different way.

The first was a brilliant analysis of the facts from the stand point of contract law. The plaintiff signed a contract with no intention of fulfilling the contract.

Turnbough then proceeded to sign the release but he now seeks to have the release invalidated on the basis that such releases are unenforceable. Turnbough’s conduct in this matter shows that he entered into a binding contract with no intention of honoring it and every intention of breaking it at a later time should it become convenient.

Signing a contract without the intention of fulfilling the contract is fraud and subjects the fraudulent party with being forced to uphold the contract and in some cases pay damages for the fraudulent acts.

The dissent then went through the release and pointed out the places in the release that the requirements the majority insist upon were in the release.

The final issue was the plaintiff had consumed several alcoholic beverages right before his dive contrary to the instruction of the dive instructor.

Finally, the record in this case indicates that Turnbough, after signing a release he did not intend to honor, admittedly consumed several alcoholic beverages at a local cabaret just hours before his dive in violation of clear warnings given to him by Ladner.

Finally, the dissent sort of let the majority have it.

Today’s majority opinion favors those who recklessly ignore sober warnings, intentionally sign agreements that they have no intention of fulfilling and then throw themselves upon the mercy of the Courts to reward their dishonest and reckless behavior. This Court should not reward such conduct. I would therefore affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Ladner.

So Now What?

As much as you may want to cheer the dissent in this opinion both for the clarity of the decision and the truthfulness that he brings to the opinion, the majority rules and releases, if at all possible, to write in Mississippi will be difficult to enforce.

First releases in Mississippi must have a long list of the risks which the release might cover to be valid. The release must contain more than the legalese needed in most other states. The injuries the plaintiff might complain of, must be something the plaintiff read about in the release.

The secret handshake that basically removes Mississippi from a state supporting release law is the “fair and honest negotiation” clause. That means the parties must negotiate for the release to be valid. Explained another way, the plaintiff must be presented with the opportunity to take the class or do the activity without signing a release.

So if you offer the opportunity to take the scuba class in this case for $500 by signing a release, you can take the class without signing a release for $1000.00.

However, most insurance policies for outdoor recreation activities and all for scuba lessons require the scuba instructor to use a release. So in Scuba and most other recreational activities the defendant is caught between a rock and a hard place. Make the release valid under Mississippi law and do so without insurance or maintain insurance, temporarily until your insurer finds out your release is invalid.

This requirement is almost doomed to stop releases in Mississippi.

One option, which probably won’t work in Mississippi, that you could write into a release, which I have used for several years, is a breach of contract clause. If you sign the contract and then attempt to breach the contract you are subject to greater damages. However, this is a tricky clause. Doing so without it appearing to be indemnification, which is not allowed by most states, and enforceable requires understanding the law and the language.

However, that still pales in front of the requirement to negotiate the release.

Another issue in this case that the dissent argued that in other cases might go differently is signing the release having no intention of fulfilling the contract. Meaning signing the release and intending to sue if you were injured. Although the dissent felt this was a fraudulent act which should void the release. In many other states, this might be ignored unless the language of the release was specific in stating that the parties or signor intended to fulfill the contract and understood that failure to enforce the agreement would create damages.

clip_image002What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

To Purchase Go Here:

Copyright 2016 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

Google+: +Recreation

Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog: www.recreation-law.com

Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com

By Recreation Law           Rec-law@recreation-law.com     James H. Moss

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, Scuba, Scuba Diving, Open Water Dive, Bends, negotiation, release, Mississippi,

 


Turnbough v. Ladner, 754 So. 2d 467; 1999 Miss. LEXIS 375

Turnbough v. Ladner, 754 So. 2d 467; 1999 Miss. LEXIS 375

Michael Turnbough v. Janet Ladner

NO. 97-CT-01179-SCT

SUPREME COURT OF MISSISSIPPI

754 So. 2d 467; 1999 Miss. LEXIS 375

December 9, 1999, Decided

PRIOR HISTORY: [**1] COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/04/1997. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. KOSTA N. VLAHOS.

Original Opinion of December 18, 1998, Reported at: 1998 Miss. App. LEXIS 1011.

DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND REMANDED.

CASE SUMMARY:

COUNSEL: ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JOE SAM OWEN, ROBERT P. MYERS, JR.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: ROBERT M. FREY, MICHAEL E. McWILLIAMS.

JUDGES: McRAE, JUSTICE. SULLIVAN AND PITTMAN, P.JJ., BANKS AND WALLER, JJ., CONCUR. MILLS, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY PRATHER, C.J., SMITH AND COBB, JJ.

OPINION BY: MCRAE

OPINION

[*468] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL – PERSONAL INJURY

EN BANC.

McRAE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

P1. Michael Turnbough suffered decompression sickness after participating in a certification scuba dive led by Janet Ladner. Turnbough subsequently filed suit against Ladner alleging she was negligent in planning and supervising the dive. Ladner filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Circuit Court of Harrison County granted based on an anticipatory release that Turnbough had signed in favor of Ladner. Turnbough appealed, the Court of Appeals affirmed, and we granted certiorari. We [**2] reverse the Court of Appeals, as well as the trial court, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We hold that the release executed by Turnbough did not exclude from liability the type of negligence which forms the basis for Turnbough’s complaint; and therefore, the trial court’s grant of summary judgment was error.

FACTS

P2. Michael Turnbough decided in 1994 that he wanted to obtain his open-water certification as a scuba diver. He had previously been certified as a scuba diver, but his certification had expired back in the 1980’s. Turnbough enrolled in a scuba diving class offered by Gulfport Yacht Club and taught by Janet Ladner. Upon learning from Ladner that all of the participants would be required to execute a release in favor of her and the Gulfport Yacht Club in order to participate in the class, Turnbough questioned a fellow student who also happened to be an attorney. After Turnbough’s classmate informed him that such releases were unenforceable, Turnbough then executed the document entitled “Liability Release and Express Assumption of Risk.” The release, in pertinent part, stated

Further, I understand that diving with compressed [**3] air involves certain inherent risks: decompression sickness [and others]. . . .

P3. At the conclusion of the six- week course, the class convened in Panama City, Florida to perform the first of their “check-out dives” in order to receive certification. On Saturday, July 23, 1994, the class performed two dives from the beach. However, Turnbough’s participation in the first dive was cut short by a leaking tank. He completed the second dive with no apparent problems. The next morning, Sunday, July 24, 1994, the class performed two dives from a dive boat. Two dives of sixty feet each were scheduled, but because the dive boat had engine problems, the first dive site was only forty-six to forty-eight feet deep. The second dive descended to sixty feet, and Ladner calculated the maximum time allowable for the second dive as thirty-eight minutes.

P4. Turnbough began to feel the first effects of decompression sickness, commonly known as “the bends,” on his way back to Gulfport that evening. The next day Turnbough began experiencing a pain that he described as “arthritic” in his joints. On Tuesday, Turnbough began attempting to contact Ladner to inform her of his symptoms. He continued [**4] to make attempts to contact her throughout the week, finally reaching her on Friday. Ladner advised Turnbough to call a diver’s hotline, which in turn instructed him to seek medical attention at a dive hospital. Turnbough received treatment for decompression sickness at the Jo Ellen Smith Hospital in New Orleans. Turnbough states that he was told by the doctors at the hospital who ran the dive profile that the dive was too long, and there should have been a decompression stop before the [*469] divers surfaced. He further states that he was told that he could never dive again. Tom Ebro, an expert in water safety and scuba diving, opined that Ladner was negligent in planning the depths of the dives as well as in failing to make safety stops and that these errors significantly increased the risk that her students might suffer decompression illness.

P5. On February 10, 1995, Turnbough filed suit against Ladner. In his complaint, Turnbough alleged that Ladner was negligent in her supervision of the dive and in exposing him to decompression injury. Ladner filed a motion for summary judgment on October 27, 1995, based on the release Turnbough had signed. The circuit court granted the motion, [**5] and dismissed the case.

P6. Turnbough appealed, asserting that the release should be declared void as against public policy, and the case was assigned to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals found that the release was a contract of a purely personal nature and did not violate Mississippi public policy because scuba diving does not implicate a public concern. We subsequently granted certiorari.

DISCUSSION

P7. [HN1] The law does not look with favor on contracts intended to exculpate a party from the liability of his or her own negligence although, with some exceptions, they are enforceable. However, such agreements are subject to close judicial scrutiny and are not upheld unless the intention of the parties is expressed in clear and unmistakable language. 57A Am. Jur. 2d Negligence § 65, at 124 (1989); see also Willard Van Dyke Prods., Inc. v. Eastman Kodak Co., 12 N.Y.2d 301, 189 N.E.2d 693, 695, 239 N.Y.S.2d 337 (N.Y. 1963) (“clear and unequivocal terms”). “Clauses [HN2] limiting liability are given rigid scrutiny by the courts, and will not be enforced unless the limitation is fairly and honestly negotiated and understandingly entered into. [**6] ” Farragut v. Massey, 612 So. 2d 325, 330 (Miss. 1992) (quoting 17 Am. Jur. 2d Contracts § 297, at 298 n.74 (1991).

P8. [HN3] The wording of an exculpatory agreement should express as clearly and precisely as possible the extent to which a party intends to be absolved from liability. Bradley Realty Corp. v. New York, 54 A.D.2d 1104, 389 N.Y.S.2d 198, 199-200 (N.Y. App. Div. 1976); Hertzog v. Harrison Island Shores, Inc., 21 A.D.2d 859, 251 N.Y.S.2d 164, 165 (N.Y. App. Div. 1964). Failing that, we do not sanction broad, general “waiver of negligence” provisions, and strictly construe them against the party asserting them as a defense. See Leach v. Tingle, 586 So. 2d 799, 801 (Miss. 1991); State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Scitzs, 394 So. 2d 1371, 1372 (Miss. 1981).

P9. [HN4] In further determining the extent of exemption from liability in releases, this Court has looked to the intention of the parties in light of the circumstances existing at the time of the instrument’s execution. Farragut, 612 So. 2d at 330. The affidavit of [**7] Tom Ebro, an expert in water safety and scuba diving, shows that the alleged negligent acts on which Turnbough’s claim is based could not have been contemplated by the parties. Ebro stated that Ladner’s instruction fell “woefully short” of minimally acceptable standards of scuba instruction. Specifically, he averred that Ladner negligently planned the depths of the dives and failed to make safety stops which significantly increased the risk of decompression illness, especially with a student class. Assuming Turnbough was aware of the inherent risks in scuba diving, it does not reasonably follow that he, a student, intended to waive his right to recover from Ladner for failing to follow even the most basic industry safety standards. This is especially true since Ladner, who held herself out as an expert scuba instructor and is presumed to have superior knowledge, is the very one on whom Turnbough depended for safety. In this case it appears that Ladner may have miscalculated the amount of time for the dive or may have failed to take into account [*470] previous dives. This is important because nitrogen builds up in the body while underwater and, with too much nitrogen, the “bends” and permanent [**8] damage including loss of life may occur. Surely it cannot be said from the language of the agreement that Turnbough intended to accept any heightened exposure to injury caused by the malfeasance of an expert instructor. Turnbough, by executing the release, did not knowingly waive his right to seek recovery for injuries caused by Ladner’s failure to follow basic safety guidelines that should be common knowledge to any instructor of novice students.

P10. We have held in Quinn that [HN5] contracts attempting to limit the liabilities of one of the parties would not “be enforced unless the limitation is fairly and honestly negotiated and understood by both parties.” Quinn v. Mississippi State Univ., 720 So. 2d 843, 851 (Miss. 1998) (citation omitted). In this case, Turnbough signed a pre-printed contract, the terms of which were not negotiated. Since the contract was not negotiated and contained a broad waiver of negligence provision, the terms of the contract should be strictly construed against the party seeking to enforce such a provision. See Leach v. Tingle, 586 So. 2d at 801; State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Scitzs, 394 So. 2d at 1372. [**9]

P11. Although waivers are commonly used and necessary for some activities and the attendant risks and hazards associated with them, those who wish to relieve themselves from responsibility associated with a lack of due care or negligence should do so in specific and unmistakable terms. The agreement in this case fails to do that.

CONCLUSION

P12. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and the trial court’s summary judgment and we remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

P13. REVERSED AND REMANDED FOR PROCEEDINGS CONSISTENT WITH THIS OPINION.

SULLIVAN AND PITTMAN, P.JJ., BANKS AND WALLER, JJ., CONCUR. MILLS, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY PRATHER, C.J., SMITH AND COBB, JJ.

DISSENT BY: MILLS

DISSENT

MILLS, JUSTICE, DISSENTING:

P14. The majority finds that summary judgment was not appropriate in this case, and therefore reverses and remands for a trial. Because the trial court was correct in granting summary judgment, I respectfully dissent.

P15. We must determine the validity of an unambiguous release dealing with admittedly hazardous activities signed [**10] with full awareness of all the risks and dangers by Turnbough in favor of Ladner. The record shows that Turnbough consulted a fellow classmate who also happened to be an attorney. Turnbough’s classmate gratuitously informed him that such releases were unenforceable. Turnbough then proceeded to sign the release but he now seeks to have the release invalidated on the basis that such releases are unenforceable. Turnbough’s conduct in this matter shows that he entered into a binding contract with no intention of honoring it and every intention of breaking it at a later time should it become convenient.

P16. Directly addressing the facts of this case, the release in question states in pertinent part:

I, Michael Turnbough, hereby affirm that I have been advised and thoroughly informed of the inherent dangers of skin diving and scuba diving.

Further, I understand that diving with compressed air involves certain inherent risks: decompression sickness [and others]. . . .

I understand and agree that neither my instructor(s) Janet Ladner [nor the Yacht Cub or other participants] may [*471] be held liable or responsible in any way for any injury, death, or other damages to me or my family, [**11] heirs, or assigns that may occur as a result of my participation in this diving class or as a result of the negligence of any party, including the Released Parties, whether passive or active.

P17. In my opinion such unambiguous releases comport with the public policy of the State of Mississippi and should be enforced. The failure to enforce such releases when dealing with obviously risky activities, such as scuba diving, will have a chilling effect on the numerous sporting activities and other events of obvious danger. We should allow reasonable adults to assume such risks when they choose to engage in activities of greater than usual danger.

P18. Releases are not only meant to save the party in whose favor it is executed from being held ultimately liable, but are also intended to allow such a party to avoid the costs and anxiety of having to fully litigate the matter. Summary judgment is the appropriate mechanism to do just that. Summary judgment may be granted “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled [**12] to a judgment as a matter of law.” M.R.C.P. 56(c). “A ‘material’ fact tends to resolve any of the issues, properly raised by the parties.” Mississippi Road Supply Company, Inc. v. Zurich-American Insurance Company, 501 So. 2d 412, 414 (Miss. 1987) (quoting Pearl River County Board of Supervisors v. South East Collections Agency, Inc., 459 So. 2d 783, 785 (Miss.1984)).

P19. Finally, the record in this case indicates that Turnbough, after signing a release he did not intend to honor, admittedly consumed several alcoholic beverages at a local cabaret just hours before his dive in violation of clear warnings given to him by Ladner. Today’s majority opinion favors those who recklessly ignore sober warnings, intentionally sign agreements that they have no intention of fulfilling and then throw themselves upon the mercy of the Courts to reward their dishonest and reckless behavior. This Court should not reward such conduct. I would therefore affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Ladner.

P20. I respectfully dissent.

PRATHER, C.J., SMITH AND COBB, JJ., JOIN THIS OPINION.


When a training agency decides it is more important than its instructor members or, worse, the training agency helps the plaintiff sue its own members

This is rare and should not be viewed as common in the industry. At the same time, This is an outrage and this agency needs new directors, new officers and a new board…..NOW!

Most importantly, the training agency lied to its members, continues to lie to its members and requires them to provide information to the agency that they claim is confidential and protected that is NOT.

Privilege is protection afforded by the US constitution that allows a client to say anything and everything to his or her attorney. Privilege also applies to communications between a patient and a physician and a person and his clergy. No court can compel the attorney, physician or priest to say what they have been told.

This is a sacred right as well as a legal issue. It allows the attorney to prepare the best defense or claim because they know everything. It allows a physician to provide the best care because they know everything. It allows a clergy to provide comfort and the person to receive forgiveness because the clergy knows everything.

There is one major exception to the law that applies to patients who have injuries from gun shots. All medical personnel are required to report this to law enforcement in most states. What is said by the patient is not reported, just the type of injury.

Without privilege, an attorney would not know how to prosecute or defend a case, and that is a right guaranteed by the US Constitution. Without privilege, a person might not see their physician or be defended by their attorney. Without privilege, a sinner might never receive absolution. Privilege is a right that is given by a higher protection than any other law or right by state or federal governments except the freedoms of the constitution.

Privilege is limited in its scope. The information must be provided by the person to the professional: clergy, doctor or lawyer. It must be specific to the professional and be of the nature of the services being offered. The information can only be heard or seen by the professional. It must be done after the incident, if legal in nature, to be privileged. It must be prepared by the client for the attorney, at the attorney’s request. Any waiver or violation of these rules and the privilege is waived, or gone.

No other person, party or organization can hear or see the privileged information. If a person, party or organization does, the privilege is lost. Again, there are exceptions such as employees of the attorney. Even improper handling of the information or possible access to the information can waive privilege. Courts have ruled handing privileged information to a third party, who was able to see the information waives privilege. Having a third party over hear the communication waives privilege. Handing the information to your insurance company or training agency before, as, or any time after an incident waives privilege.

That means you cannot take a document prepared for an insurance company and give it to your attorney and call it privileged. That means you cannot prepare a report for your attorney and give a copy to your insurance company. Once it leaves your hands and goes to anyone else other than the attorney the privilege is lost. Any document prepared prior to the incident also has no privilege unless specifically prepared in anticipation of litigation by your attorney.

How that got screwed up in a scuba diving case.

(Parentheses Surround the name of the document from which the information or the quote is taken. There are a lot of documents in this case, and discovery is ongoing.)

Simplified Version of the Facts

David Tuvell was participating in a Professional Association of Scuba Instructors (PADI) Discover Scuba Diving program at the Bear Lake Aquatic Base, which is owned by the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America.  The dive program was offered by Blue Water Scuba of Logan, Utah and supervised by Corbett Douglas an employee of Blue Water Scuba. Tuvell died during the dive, and his parents sued everyone.

Case

Case Number: No. 1:12CV00128 BCW

US District Court District of Utah, Northern Division

The Parties

Plaintiffs

David Christopher Tuvell, Deceased

Christopher Joseph Tuvell, father of the deceased

Sherry Lynn Tuvell, mother of the deceased

The estate of David Christopher Tuvell

Defendants

Corbett Douglas, Instructor

Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

Blue Water Scuba of Logan, Utah

Bear Lake Aquatic Base

Great Salt Lake Council of the BSA

Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)

PADI Americas, Inc. legal name of PADI

Lowell Huber, owner of Blue Water Scuba of Logan

PADI

PADI was sued because it was a PADI course the deceased was taking at the time. PADI is a training agency that provides training, curriculum and other benefits to and for scuba diving instructors. PADI courses train beginning divers as well as advanced diver and dive instructors. PADI is a mixed membership organization in that it has members who are professional, commercial and non-professional divers.

PADI has a form, the first page of which is pasted below, called the “Incident Report Form.” PADI contractually requires any member of PADI to complete the form and send it to PADI for any incident, injury or fatality. The form states it is “…prepared for the purpose of receiving legal advice or for use in anticipated litigation.” This would imply that the information on the form is protected by privilege. PADI tells its members, they must complete the form and that the information is privileged. See The ABCs of Incident Reporting.

clip_image002[4]PADI’s position on this issue was set forth on a dive bulletin board. (Dive incident reports [Archive] – Scuba Diving Forum – Diving Social Network) The position was stated on the forum by PADI’s director of legal and risk management.

As was speculated on the bulletin board, any incident reports provided to PADI are considered preapred in anticipation of litigation and are therefore, confidential and not released except on the direction of legal counsel or by court order. [spelling error appeared in the original post]

PADI members are required to file incident reports, even if they were just present on the scene. The report states it is privileged; however, it isn’t. Even worse, as these facts show, PADI allegedly provides the reports to the plaintiff as part of any settlement agreement if it is sued. So PADI, in effect, to protect its own butt, lies to its members, and then helps screw its own members in court.

PADI is not a law firm. PADI is an educational organization. There is no privilege with any document or statement made to PADI by anyone for any reason. A confidential document is still provided to all parties in litigation; it just can’t be given to people, not part of the litigation.

How PADI Mislead and then Pissed off the Court

PADI was a defendant in the case. PADI secretly settled with the plaintiffs in the case. This means the parties worked out an agreement where PADI paid the plaintiffs an amount of money and the plaintiffs released PADI, and dismissed their claims against PADI.

Settlement agreements are signed when the parties agree to settle their dispute and quit suing each other. A settlement agreement in litigation has two parts. The first is the agreement between the parties which outlines the amounts and the terms of the agreement. The second is the motion to dismiss based on the settlement agreement that is filed with the court. The court and the other parties never see the settlement agreement itself. Nor does the motion state anything other than the parties have settled.

The court then dismisses the case. In this case, however, several “odd things” occurred. Odd should be replaced by outright fraudulent things.

First, the settlement agreement was signed but no motion to dismiss PADI was made to the court. The original complaint was then amended, with PADI’s consent and allegedly PADI’s help, to remove most of the claims against PADI, even though PADI had settled ALL claims against it.

Once the motion is filed, the Judge reviews the motion to dismiss and grants the motion 99.999% of the time and dismisses the parties from the case, or if one party is staying, the claims between the parties. As a result, one defendant is gone from the case.

PADI signed a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs. The settlement agreement in part stated:

Claimants further understand and agree that this settlement is a compromise of disputed claims and that payment is not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of any of the Released Parties who are released herein and by whom liability is expressly denied. Even though PADI is settling, it maintains and believes that Claimants are correct that defendants Blue Water Scuba, Lowell Huber, and Corbett Douglas acted improperly and were the primary if not sole cause of this tragic event. PADI desires and intends to remain a party to this action to the extent the court will allow in order to defend the professional reputation of PADI and to defend and represent PADI employees and agents who may be witnesses in this action. [emphasize added] (PADI-Tuvell Settlement Agreement)

I’ve practiced law for thirty plus years, and I have never seen anything like this. I’ve reviewed or written several dozen settlement agreements, and I have never seen or written anything like this.

PADI and other plaintiffs intended to keep their settlement agreement a secret. However, Utah law requires a settlement agreement releasing one defendant to be turned to the other defendants in discovery. When the plaintiffs’ attorney let it slip during a court hearing that a settlement had been reached with PADI, the other defendants demanded that the settlement agreement be provided to everyone in discovery.  

Meanwhile, discovery in the case proceeded and, just before it looked like PADI would be dismissed from the case in accordance with its complete settlement of all the plaintiffs’ claims against it, PADI “inadvertently” produced its Members’ incident reports to the plaintiffs without a discovery request and without first notifying the Members that their confidential reports would be produced. After a few days went by, the attorneys for PADI notified the other parties that the documents had been “inadvertently” produced and asked the documents be destroyed because the Blue Water Defendants might want to claim that they were protected by the attorney-client privilege. (Letter from PADI’s Counsel 10-18-2013, Objections to PADI’s Disclosures.)  This is absolute BS. See above information on privilege.

Eventually, the court found out what was going on with the secret settlement. (Order granting Mtn for Sanctions 08-27-2014.) The court granted sanctions (monetary damages) to the remaining defendants because PADI had:

·         Not immediately notifying the court of the settlement agreement

·         It prolonged the litigation by not leaving the case

·         Entering into a secret settlement agreement

·         Colluding with the plaintiff to file false and misleading claims post-settlement with the court

What unhinges me is this statement.

Plaintiffs and PADI have admitted that PADI insisted that it remain a party to the case, even after PADI and the Plaintiffs had reached a complete settlement of all claims, so PADI could assist the Plaintiffs in proving their claims against the Blue Water Defendants. [emphasis added]

The treachery lies and fraud in this case are unreal.

1.     PADI put itself before its own members. This was not a Spock issue were sacrificing one would save the world. This was simply we are going to sacrifice our member for no reason.

2.     This is another example of abuse of members by telling them they can protect them by completing forms.

3.     PADI lied and deceived its members to collect information about incidents they had no right to have and no right to say was privileged.

Again, this is BS. There is no privilege except between an attorney and the attorney’s client. Anything prepared in anticipation of litigation is prepared for the attorney, no one else. That has been the law since I passed the bar (the test to become an attorney). The attorney can only see the document, no third party, and no non law firm people.

Think you trade association represents you? You better make sure it does.

Do Something

At the very least let, PADI know. I suggest you join another association or form a new one.

NEVER EVER FILL OUT ANY INCIDENT REPORT FORM FOR ANYONE EXCEPT YOUR ATTORNEY.

 

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Lawsuit filed against a scuba diving center for failing to properly rescue distressed diver and failing to follow rescue procedures.

Issue is going to be whose procedures. Dive shops own procedures or association? This is going to be interesting.

You need to read the entire article and remember these facts probably came from the plaintiff’s position. How do you know this; the plaintiff’s attorney is quoted in the article saying the dive center’s attorneys declined to comment. Now that is investigative journalism. Woodward and Bernstein would be proud.

The deceased died on a recreational scuba diving trip. Allegedly, the deceased surfaced in distress and was not rescued properly: “…dive instructors of negligence and failing to throw Kevin Jerome Kraemer a flotation device and follow emergency procedures.”

Allegedly, the dive staff “…the dive crew tried to rescue and later resuscitate him; they made key errors in the heat of the moment.”

Failing to rescue has never been successful and is very rare. Failing to follow procedures is common. The biggest question from our point of view is whose procedures. If the procedures are the associations, ASTM, etc., nothing like your own group sinking your ship.

See Va. Beach dive center faces lawsuit for failed rescue

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Trifecta of stupidity sinks this dive operation. Too many releases, operation standards and dive industry standards, along with an employee failing to get releases signed, sunk this ship on appeal.

This case is a mess, mainly because the defendant’s risk management and release “program” is a mess. Each level of scuba dive required a different release at this dive center, the basic dive releases were so badly written, when the next level of dive was done without a release, the first release failed.

Diodato, etc., vs. Islamorada Asset Management, Inc., etc., et al., 2014 Fla. App. LEXIS 6254

Date of the Decision:

Plaintiff: Dominic Diodato, as personal representative of the estate of his late wife, Aviva Diodato

Defendant: Islamorada Asset Management, Inc., etc., et al.

Plaintiff Claims:

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: for the plaintiff

The plaintiff is the husband and the estate of the deceased wife. The husband and wife traveled from Arizona to go diving with the defendant in Florida. This was their second trip to the defendant to dive. The first dive of this trip was called a shallow reef dive. The next day the husband and wife were to do a more advanced dive, a wreck or deep water dive. At the beginning of the second dive, the wife died.

The plaintiff’s signed a release on their first trip to the defendant’s dive operation in 2009. Another release was signed in 2010 for the shallow reef or first dive of the second trip. A third release was to be signed prior to the second dive of the second trip the wreck dive. The dive operation had a “standard practice” of having different releases signed before each dive or level of dive. The dive instructor failed to follow the standard practice and secure the signatures on the third release.

The plaintiff sued, and the trial court dismissed the case based on the releases, both the 2009 and 2010 releases. The plaintiff appealed.

Summary of the case

The court sets out its arguments quit quickly in its review of the facts of the case.

The trial court rejected Mr. Diodato’s argument and evidence that the dive operators had failed to follow their own standard practice of procuring a different form of release for the more advanced dive and the boat trip to be undertaken on the day of the tragedy. [Emphasize added]

This is a very interesting statement by the courts. The defendant had a series of procedures or “standard practice” which the court found the defendant had failed to follow. Failing to follow your standard practice was of concern to the court.

The second issue was the first release signed did not cover the activities on the second dive. That alone was enough for the court to overturn the trial court’s decision.

Applying well-settled Florida’s law disfavoring and narrowly construing exculpatory clauses, we reverse and remand for further proceedings. The scope and duration of the “activity” to which the signed exculpatory provisions applied is a genuine issue of material fact that precludes summary judgment.

A release needs to have information that relates the risk to the signor that he or she is agreeing to. Here the information in the first two releases was not enough to support a defense for the third activity.

“Scope” would reasonably address the hazardous activity which the releasor has paid the releasee to allow him or her to undertake, and which the releasee insists must be at the releasor’s own risk if the activity is to proceed. “Term” would reasonably address the anticipated duration of the hazardous activity for which the release has been required and obtained. The scope and term of one hazardous activity may naturally vary significantly in the level of risk assumed by the releasor when compared to another hazardous activity.

Rarely has this been an issue in past decisions in Florida or other states. However, this court beat the issue continuously.

A pre-printed release signed for an introductory scuba certification class in shallow water would ordinarily have a different scope, level of risk, and cost than a deep water cave dive or offshore wreck dive, for example. The pre-activity “knowledge review” described in the instructor’s testimony in this case was plainly calculated to communicate the risk of an advanced activity to the participant about to be asked to initial and sign a form of release.

Finally, the court then looked at the release and found that the activity the plaintiff’s undertakings were not defined in the release. “’Activity’ is not defined in the releases signed by Mrs. Diodato….” The court used this analysis to state that the level of risk described in the signed release was different from the level of risk of the dive the plaintiff died doing and as such, it could be argued that the plaintiff did not want to assume or recognize that level of risk.

Instead, the defendants’ April 15 form recognized a different activity and level of risk, expressly defining this activity as an “Excursion” and including within it the hazards of scuba diving as well as “injuries occurring while getting on or off a boat, and other perils of the sea,” a category of harm not addressed in the signed releases.

The court also found that because there was an opportunity in the unsigned release to purchase insurance, if this was a greater risk than the plaintiff might have wanted to accept or a risk the plaintiff wanted to insure.

And because the defendants’ prescribed form was not presented or signed, we will never know whether Mrs. Diodato might have inquired about diver accident insurance, or obtained it, as contemplated by the separate PADI form.

Next the court took on the releases themselves. The releases were only good for one year. The releases also had boxes to initial which the plaintiff’s failed to initial. The quote from the decision below is very telling.

It was the practice of Key Dives to require their customers to sign a release immediately prior to a day’s dive. Each of the Diodatos signed a release in favor of Key Dives, and those connected with Key Dives, on August 29, 2009. On the reverse side of the re-leases, they initialed boxes stating, “[t]his release is valid for one year from the date of this release.” On April 14, 2010, again before a dive, the Diodatos signed other releases; this time they did not initial the box providing for the one-year operative period. They dove that day. On the morning of the April 15, 2010, dive, the dive fatal to Aviva, the Diodatos were late in arriving, and did not sign a release.

The court pointed every failing in this operation and its release, to support its decision. Then the court lays out this bombshell, which honestly; I hope is a mistake.

This final dive was to be a wreck dive to a ship called the Eagle. It was to be an advanced open water dive, a dive for which; according to the Plaintiff, dive industry standards dictated a particular form of release must be used. [Emphasize added]

The dive industry is telling dive operators what releases to be used. I would have brought the dive industry in as a third party defendant and let them pick up the tab for some of this mess.

So Now What?

This decision can also be used as a checklist of what not to do.

First don’t make your procedures so difficult that you can easily screw them up. In this case, each successive series of releases just created openings for a release to fail.

Write a release. Write a release to cover every possible risk. In this case, a release was signed for an easy activity which did not outline the risks of the riskier activities. That is just a waste of paper.

What if on an easy dive, an unexpected storm rolls in that turns the dive into a nightmare. A shallow water dive in the keys near coral can shred divers, making getting into the boat a gymnastic event and provide no place to hide in or out of the water. Are your weather forecasting skills so great that you make sure easy dives do not escalate in risk.  Rather than not diving cover the risks with a release.

Contracts can last forever. Most mortgages are for thirty years, and a mortgage is a contract. Don’t create a release that, in and of itself, is limited. Here the releases were only good for one year. Write your release so it is good forever. Don’t give the plaintiff away  to sue you.

If the plaintiff signed a release, limited to one year, on January 1, and then was also injured on January 1. The plaintiff would only have to wait until January 2nd of the next year to file a lawsuit to eliminate the release as a defense.

You don’t need initials. You need a signature, and you should have a date. Initials are only discussed in releases when someone fails to initial something, and the court points it out. On top of that it just adds time to the entire process. Instead of checking each release for a signature date and other information you may collect, you have to check for a signature, date and each box that may need to be initialed.

You have to have a well-written, properly written release for your operation, your state and your risks. That can be a complicated document. However, don’t overly complicate your operation and in this case eliminate a defense by creating too many standards, following bad advice and not even getting signatures on the documents.

If you need a well-written release, email or call me!

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