Older Nevada Supreme Court Decision holds releases are only proof of assumption of the risk if the release meets the assumption of risk requirements.Posted: June 18, 2018
In Nevada to Assume the Risk, the plaintiff must voluntarily expose themselves to the risk and have actual knowledge of the risk.
State: Nevada, Supreme Court of Nevada
Plaintiff: Sherri Renaud
Defendant: Convention Center Ltd. dba Flyaway,
Plaintiff Claims: Negligence
Defendant Defenses: Release
Holding: For the Plaintiff
Nevada Supreme Court holds a release is only proof of assumption of the risk and is NOT absolute proof. The defendant still must prove the plaintiff voluntarily assumed and have knowledge of the risk.
The good news is this decision has not been used in any additional Nevada decisions or a decision in any other state.
Plaintiff went to the defendant’s business wanting to experience a free fall simulator. Before participating, she signed a release.
After the plaintiff was injured and sued, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based on the release signed by the plaintiff. The motion was denied because it did not prove the plaintiff voluntarily assumed and understood the risks.
Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.
Under Nevada’s law, Assumption of the risk has a two-prong test to be proved.
First, there must have been voluntary exposure to the danger.
Second, there must have been actual knowledge of the risk assumed.
The plaintiff argued, and the Supreme Court agreed with her argument that she did not fully understand the risks of simulated free fall. That waiver of the facts, that can be interpreted in more than one way is enough to eliminate a motion for summary judgment.
So Now What?
Who knows why the Nevada Supreme Court made this decision. However, this shows the reason why you list the possible risks of your activity in your release. A pure legal document as a release can only be used as that, a pure legal release.
If the release is thrown out for any reason, if you have listed the risks of the activity in the release, you can argue it should be used to prove assumption of the risk.
Here when the court decides that a release is not longer a contract not to sue, but attempted proof of assumption of the risk, it becomes critical.
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Sherri Renaud, Appellant, v. 200 Convention Center Ltd. dba Flyaway, Respondent
Supreme Court of Nevada
102 Nev. 500; 728 P.2d 445; 1986 Nev. LEXIS 1623
December 4, 1986, Filed
PRIOR HISTORY: [***1] Appeal from a summary judgment. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Earle W. White, Jr., Judge.
DISPOSITION: Reversed and remanded.
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Appellant challenged a decision of the Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County (Nevada), which granted respondent summary judgment in appellant’s negligence action.
OVERVIEW: Appellant filed a negligence claim against respondent for injuries she sustained while utilizing its free-fall simulator. Respondent had required that appellant sign a liability release form. The release purported to exculpate respondent of any liability for negligence that might occur while appellant was on its premises. The trial court granted respondent’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the court reversed and remanded. The court noted that appellant had denied appreciation of the risks associated with the free-fall simulator. The court held that, because there was a dispute as to whether appellant knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risks associated with the simulator, the matter was not appropriate for a determination as a matter of law.
OUTCOME: The court reversed the decision of the trial court, which granted respondent summary judgment in appellant’s negligence action, and remanded for further proceedings.
CORE TERMS: matter of law, simulator, summary judgment, actual knowledge, free-fall, genuine issues, fact finder, risks associated, voluntarily assumed, essential element, utilizing
COUNSEL: Albert D. Massi and Allen A. Cap, Las Vegas, for Appellant.
Dickerson, Miles, Pico & Mitchell and Shirley D. Lindsey, Las Vegas, for Respondent.
Jonathan C. Reed, Las Vegas, Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, Amicus Curiae.
JUDGES: Mowbray, C.J., Springer, J. Gunderson, J. Steffen, J. and Young, J.
OPINION BY: PER CURIAM
[*500] [**446] Sherri Renaud filed a negligence claim against Flyaway for [*501] injuries she sustained while utilizing its free-fall simulator. Flyaway had required that Ms. Renaud sign a liability release form. The release purported to exculpate Flyaway of any liability for negligence that might occur while Ms. Renaud was on its premises. A motion for summary judgment was brought by Flyaway for the sole purpose of determining the validity of the signed release. The district court granted the motion, thereby barring further prosecution of the lawsuit. Because we agree with Ms. Renaud that genuine issues of fact exist, the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor [***2] of Flyaway is reversed.
It is well established that [HN1] summary judgment is appropriate only “where it is quite clear what the truth is, and where no genuine issue remains for trial.” In re Hilton Hotel, 101 Nev. 489, 492, 706 P.2d 137, 138 (1985). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that judgment as a matter of law is appropriate. Id. Additionally, upon review, all evidence is considered in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.
Here, Flyaway (in its motion for summary judgment) successfully urged the trial court to accept the signed release as conclusive evidence that Ms. Renaud relieved Flyaway of liability for any injuries that she might sustain while utilizing the free-fall simulator. The determination that the release was valid indicated that Ms. Renaud assumed the risk of the injuries that she sustained. We do not agree that the release itself was sufficient to establish such a fact as a matter of law.
[HN2] Assumption of the risk is based on a theory of consent. In Sierra Pacific v. Anderson, 77 Nev. 68, 358 P.2d 892 (1961), this court asserted that in order for a litigant to have assumed the risk, two requirements must be met. [***3] First, there must have been voluntary exposure to the danger. Second, there must have been actual knowledge of the risk assumed. Id. at 73, 358 P.2d at 894. “A risk can be said to have been voluntarily assumed by a person only if it was known to him and he fully appreciated the danger.” Id. at 71-72, 358 P.2d at 894, quoting Papagni v. Purdue, 74 Nev. 32, 35, 321 P.2d 252, 253 (1958). As elucidated in Sierra, the essential element of the defense is the actual knowledge of the danger assumed. 77 Nev. at 71, 358 P.2d at 894.
Ms. Renaud denied appreciation of the risks associated with the free-fall simulator. Because actual knowledge of the risks assumed is an essential element of this defense, such a matter [*502] must be reserved for the fact finder. It is necessary to evaluate all the circumstances as they existed at the time the release was obtained. Considerations should include (but are not limited to) the following: the nature and extent of the injuries, the haste or lack thereof with which the release was obtained, and the understandings and expectations of the parties at the time of signing.
Thus, because there was a dispute as to whether Ms. Renaud [***4] knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risks associated with the simulator, the matter was not appropriate for a determination as a matter of law. E.g., Pacific Pools Constr. v. McClain’s Concrete, 101 Nev. 557, 706 P.2d at 849 (1985). See also O’Connell v. Walt Disney World Co., 413 So.2d 444 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App. 1982) (a signed liability waiver was deemed not sufficient as a matter of law to show that appellant subjectively understood the risks inherent in horseback riding and actually intended to assume those risks). Here, it is necessary for the fact finder to hear testimony and assess credibility. Accordingly, we reverse the ruling of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. In light of our disposition, we decline to reach the other contentions raised on appeal.