OFFICIAL CODE OF GEORGIA ANNOTATED
Copyright 2014 by The State of Georgia
All rights reserved.
TITLE 27. GAME AND FISH
CHAPTER 4. FISH
ARTICLE 7. LIMITED LIABILITY OF OWNERS AND OPERATORS OF SPORT FISHING LOCATIONS
GO TO GEORGIA STATUTES ARCHIVE DIRECTORY
O.C.G.A. § 27-4-280 (2014)
§ 27-4-280. Legislative findings
The General Assembly recognizes that persons who participate in the sport of fishing may incur injuries as a result of the risks involved in such activity. The General Assembly also finds that the state and its citizens derive numerous economic and personal benefits from such activity. The General Assembly finds, determines, and declares that this article is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety. It is, therefore, the intent of the General Assembly to encourage the sport of fishing by limiting the civil liability of those involved in such activity.
O.C.G.A. § 27-4-281 (2014)
§ 27-4-281. Definitions
As used in this article, the term:
(1) “Fishing location” means a body of water, whether naturally occurring or manmade, containing fish and for the privilege of fishing there a fee is charged.
(2) “Participant” means any person who enters the fishing location, singly or with a group, either by paying a fee or having the fee waived, for the purpose of fishing, education, or enjoying the outdoor environment and any person who accompanies such person.
HISTORY: Code 1981, § 27-4-281, enacted by Ga. L. 1998, p. 1659, § 1.
§ 27-4-282. Immunity from liability for injury or death; exceptions
(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, the owner or operator of any fishing location, or any other person, corporation, group, partnership, or other entity, shall not be liable for an injury to or the death of a participant resulting from the inherent risks of fishing, including but not limited to drowning, and, except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, no participant or participant’s representative shall make any claim against, maintain an action against, or recover from an owner or operator, or any other person or entity for injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting from any of the inherent risks of fishing.
(b) Nothing in subsection (a) of this Code section shall prevent or limit the liability of an owner or operator or any other person or entity if the owner or operator:
(1) Owns, leases, rents, or otherwise is in lawful possession and control of the land or facilities upon which the participant sustained injuries because of a dangerous latent condition which was known or should have been known to the owner or operator and for which signs warning of the latent defect have not been conspicuously posted;
(2) Commits an act or omission that constitutes willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant, and that act or omission caused the injury; or
(3) Intentionally injures the participant.
(c) Nothing in subsection (a) of this Code section shall prevent or limit the liability of an owner or operator under liability provisions as set forth in the products liability laws.
HISTORY: Code 1981, § 27-4-282, enacted by Ga. L. 1998, p. 1659, § 1.
O.C.G.A. § 27-4-282 (2014)
§ 27-4-283. Warning sign to be posted; contents of warning sign
(a) Every owner and operator of a fishing location shall post and maintain signs which contain the warning notice specified in subsection (b) of this Code section. Such signs shall be placed in a clearly visible location on or near the water and at the location where the fee is paid. The warning notice specified in subsection (b) of this Code section shall appear on the sign in black letters, with each letter to be a minimum of one inch in height. Every written contract entered into by an owner or operator shall contain in clearly readable print the warning notice specified in subsection (b) of this Code section.
(b) The signs and contracts described in subsection (a) of this Code section shall contain the following warning notice:
Under Georgia law, an owner or operator of a fishing location is not liable for an injury to or the death of a participant from the inherent risks of fishing, including but not limited to drowning, pursuant to Article 7 of Chapter 4 of Title 27 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.
(c) Failure to comply with the requirements concerning warning signs and notices provided in this Code section shall prevent an owner or operator from invoking the privileges of immunity provided by this article.
HISTORY: Code 1981, § 27-4-283, enacted by Ga. L. 1998, p. 1659, § 1.
Georgia Federal Court finds that assumption of the risk is a valid defense in a head injury case against a bicycle helmet manufacturer.Posted: September 22, 2014
If you purchase a helmet that only protects part of your head, then you cannot sue for injuries to the part of your head not protected.
State: Georgia, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Plaintiff: Lois Elaine Wilson
Defendant: Bicycle South, Inc.
Plaintiff Claims: Product Liability (breach of warranty, strict liability, and negligence)
Defendant Defenses: Assumption of the Risk and Open and Obvious
Holding: For the defendants
This case is fairly easy to understand, even though the opinion is quite complicated. The plaintiff was riding her bike from Florida to California. While traveling through Georgia she crashed suffering head injuries.
She sued claiming the rear wheel of the bike collapsed causing her crash. She claimed her head injuries were caused because the helmet failed to protect her head.
She sued the wheel manufacturer, Opportunities Inc., the bicycle manufacturer, Trek Bicycle Corporation and the retailer Bicycle South, Inc. The three defendants were found not liable at trial.
The jury did find the helmet manufacturer, Skid Lid Manufacturing Company liable for the plaintiff’s head injuries. The majority of the decision reviews the helmet issues. The plaintiff purchased the helmet for her ride. The helmet was a “half helmet” which only covered the top half of her head. The helmet came down to about the top of her ears.
The jury found in favor of the plaintiff on the head injury issue caused by the helmet manufacturer. The defendant Skid Lid moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, (JNOV), which the court granted. The defendant helmet manufacturer appealed the decision.
A JNOV is effectively a motion filed by the losing party and the judge overrules the jury. This is a motion that is rarely granted and only done so to overcome extreme or unreasonable jury verdicts. The judge must find that no reasonable jury could reach the decision that was reached by the jury in the case. Normally this is because there are insufficient facts to support the claims or the jury applied the law incorrectly.
In this case, the JNOV seemed to have been entered because the jury ignored the defenses presented by the defendant.
Summary of the case
Georgia at the time of the decision allowed several defense to product liability claims, two of which were: Assumption of the risk and the “open and obvious” defects. Variations of these defenses are available in some, but not all states. The trial judge in this case granted the JNOV based on the Assumption of the Risk defense. The appellate court looked at both of these defenses.
The open and obvious defense states a plaintiff cannot recover from a defendant when the alleged defect is patent and obvious to the user.
The open and obvious rule states that a product is not defective if the peril from which injury could result is patent or obvious to the user. This determination regarding the peril is made on the basis of an objective view of the product. In assessing what is obvious, it must be remembered that, contrary to the belief of some, the American public is not child-like.
This defense is not based on a defect in the product, only that the product will not or will do something that is patent, and open and obvious.
The defense applied here because the plaintiff when purchase the helmet purchased one that only covered part of her head. It was “obvious” that the helmet would not protect the part of her head that the helmet did not cover.
The assumption of risk defense is slightly different, but also applicable in this case. If the consumer knows of a defect in the product, is aware of the danger presented by the defect and proceeds to use the product anyway the plaintiff is barred from recovering. “The first part of the test, actual knowledge of the defect and danger, is fulfilled because appellant had subjective knowledge that the helmet she purchased only covered a portion of her head.”
The assumption of risk defense in Georgia is slightly more difficult to prove because the injured plaintiff must have known about the defect. (However, a defect only becomes one in pleadings after an injury has occurred.) What I mean by this is, as a manufacturer should point out the limitations of the product in the information supplied by the product. This provides the necessary notice to a user of the defect and provides a defense to the manufacturer.
The court also ruled on evidentiary issues in the case which are not important in understanding these issues.
So Now What?
For manufacturers, selling a product means more than just point out the great features of the product. You must warn the consumer of any problems or issues with the product and you must point out what the product cannot do.
That does not mean that you should point out your bicycle won’t get you to the moon. It might mean you should point out that the bicycle should only be ridden on roads if it is a road bike. Videos online show road bikes being ridden everywhere, but that does not mean as a manufacturer you should be liable when someone tries to ride the Monarch Crest Trail on your road bike.
As a retailer, you should point out the differences in products trying to specifically point out short comings about a product. This helmet has a MIPS system in side, this one does not.
Both of these defenses are easy to rely on, however not all states still allow the use of these defenses.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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Hembree v. Johnson et al., 224 Ga. App. 680; 482 S.E.2d 407; 1997 Ga. App. LEXIS 182; 97 Fulton County D. Rep. 622Posted: November 11, 2013
Hembree v. Johnson et al., 224 Ga. App. 680; 482 S.E.2d 407; 1997 Ga. App. LEXIS 182; 97 Fulton County D. Rep. 622
Hembree v. Johnson et al.
COURT OF APPEALS OF GEORGIA
224 Ga. App. 680; 482 S.E.2d 407; 1997 Ga. App. LEXIS 182; 97 Fulton County D. Rep. 622
February 14, 1997, Decided
PRIOR HISTORY: [***1] Slip and fall. Douglas Superior Court. Before Judge James.
DISPOSITION: Judgment affirmed.
COUNSEL: Akin & Tate, S. Lester Tate III, for appellant.
Chambers, Mabry, McClelland & Brooks, Rex D. Smith, Ian R. Rapaport, for appellees.
JUDGES: Judge Harold R. Banke. Pope, P. J., and Johnson, J., concur.
OPINION BY: Harold R. Banke
[*680] [**408] Judge Harold R. Banke.
Terrell L. Hembree sued Gordon Johnson and James Haddle d/b/a Douglasville Health & Athletic Club (collectively “Johnson”) to recover damages relating to a knee injury allegedly sustained in a slip and fall on a racquetball court. Hembree appeals the trial court’s adverse summary judgment ruling.
Johnson moved for summary judgment relying primarily on exculpatory language contained in a membership agreement. The record shows that Melissa Hembree completed and signed joint Membership Agreement No. 13217 on which she listed Terrell Hembree, her husband, as a family member. The first section in the contract provides, “I agree to use the Health and Athletic Club in accordance with the Rules and Conditions printed on the reverse side.” Melissa Hembree signed the Rules and Conditions document which contains certain exculpatory provisions requiring a member [***2] to: (1) assume any risk occasioned by the use of the facilities, and (2) forever release and discharge the corporate owner of the club, and any affiliated companies and/or its agents and employees from liability for claims arising out of the use of the facilities. Several months after the joint membership expired, Terrell Hembree signed a Membership Addendum to obtain an individual membership. The Membership Addendum states, “I herewith modify my original membership agreement No. 13217 dated 4-14-92 as stated herein.” The only pertinent change in the addendum altered [*681] the joint membership to an individual one. During the time Hembree had an individual membership, he allegedly slipped and fell. Held:
1. We reject Hembree’s contention that summary judgment was precluded by the existence of a material issue of disputed fact as to whether he assented to the waiver. [HN1] The construction of a written contract is a question of law for the trial court unless after the court applies the applicable rules of construction, ambiguity remains. O.C.G.A. § 13-2-1; Binswanger Glass Co. v. Beers Constr. Co., 141 Ga. App. 715, 716 (1) (234 S.E.2d 363) (1977). This is not such a situation. When Hembree [***3] signed the Membership Addendum, he specifically assented to all the terms contained in Membership Agreement No. 13217, which was incorporated by reference in the Membership Addendum. [HN2] Incorporation by reference is generally effective to accomplish its intended purpose where, as here, the reference has a reasonably clear and ascertainable meaning. Binswanger, 141 Ga. App. at 717 (2). Hembree was bound by the terms and conditions of the contract that he signed including the Rules and Conditions giving effect to the waiver. It was incumbent upon Hembree to read the contract and apprise himself of the terms to which he assented. Conklin v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 240 Ga. 58, 59 (239 S.E.2d 381) (1977); Lovelace v. Figure Salon, 179 Ga. App. 51, 53 (1) (345 S.E.2d 139) (1986). Having shown the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, Johnson was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-56 (c).
2. Hembree enumerates as errors an alleged violation of the Fair Business Practices Act (O.C.G.A. § 10-1-393.2) and an assertion that Johnson and Haddle are not [**409] agents and employees of the corporation as contemplated by the waiver language. Although Hembree [***4] claims that he raised these two issues during oral argument, he failed to provide a transcript of the summary judgment hearing. Hembree, as [HN3] the party alleging error, has the burden to show it affirmatively by the record. North Fulton Feed v. Purina Mills, 221 Ga. App. 576, 577 (472 S.E.2d 122) (1996). [HN4] Because Hembree failed to show that either of these issues was raised and argued below, they cannot be raised now for the first time. Auerbach v. First Nat. Bank of Atlanta, 147 Ga. App. 288, 290 (1) (B) (248 S.E.2d 551) (1978).
3. Notwithstanding Hembree’s argument to the contrary, we find no violation of public policy in the exculpatory clause at issue. [HN5] A contracting party may waive or renounce that which the law has established in his favor, provided doing so does not injure others or affect the public interest. O.C.G.A. § 1-3-7. It is well settled that public policy does not prohibit the inclusion of an exculpatory clause, like the one at issue here, in a health club membership. Day v. Fantastic Fitness, 190 Ga. App. 46 (1) (378 S.E.2d 166) (1989); My Fair Lady of Ga. v. Harris, 185 Ga. App. 459 (364 S.E.2d 580) (1987); Lovelace, 179 Ga. [*682] App. at 52 (1).
Judgment [***5] affirmed. Pope, P. J., and Johnson, J., concur.
WordPress Tags: Hembree,Johnson,LEXIS,Fulton,COURT,APPEALS,GEORGIA,February,PRIOR,HISTORY,Slip,Douglas,Superior,Judge,James,DISPOSITION,Judgment,COUNSEL,Akin,Tate,Lester,appellant,Chambers,Mabry,McClelland,Brooks,Smith,Rapaport,JUDGES,Harold,Banke,Pope,OPINION,Terrell,Gordon,Haddle,Douglasville,Health,Athletic,Club,knee,injury,membership,agreement,Melissa,husband,member,accordance,Rules,Conditions,facilities,owner,agents,employees,Several,Addendum,Held,contention,existence,fact,waiver,construction,Binswanger,Glass,Beers,Constr,situation,reference,Incorporation,purpose,Conklin,Mutual,Lovelace,Figure,Salon,absence,errors,violation,Fair,Practices,assertion,corporation,Although,argument,transcript,error,North,Purina,Mills,Auerbach,Bank,Atlanta,policy,clause,inclusion,Fantastic,Lady,Harris,exculpatory
Georgia Ski Safety Act
OFFICIAL CODE OF GEORGIA ANNOTATED
Copyright 2012 by The State of Georgia
TITLE 43. PROFESSIONS AND BUSINESSES
CHAPTER 43A. SNOW SKIING SAFETY
GO TO GEORGIA STATUTES ARCHIVE DIRECTORY
O.C.G.A. § 43-43A-1 (2012)
§ 43-43A-1. Definitions
As used in this chapter, the term:
(1) “Base area lift” means a passenger tramway to gain access to some other part of the ski area.
(2) “Competitor” means a skier engaging in competition or preparing for competition on a slope or trail designated by the ski area or used by the skier for the purpose of competition or training for competition.
(3) “Conditions of ordinary visibility” means all periods of daylight, and, when visibility is not restricted by weather or other atmospheric conditions, nighttime.
(4) “Inherent dangers and risks of skiing” means categories of danger or risks of skiing, or conditions of the sport of skiing that cause or can cause any injury, death, or property damage, including:
(A) Changing weather conditions;
(B) Surface and subsurface snow or ice conditions as they may exist or change from time to time, including variable conditions such as hard packed powder, packed powder, wind-blown snow, wind-packed snow, corn snow, crust slush, snow modified by skier use, or cut up snow; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions as they exist or may change as the result of weather changes or skier use; snow created by or resulting from snow making or snow grooming operations; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;
(C) Surface or subsurface conditions other than those specified in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph, including dirt, grass, rocks, trees, stumps, other forms of forest or vegetative growth, stream beds, or other natural objects or debris; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;
(D) Collisions with: lift towers; components of lift towers; signs, posts, fences, mazes, or other enclosure devices; hydrants, pipes, or any other portions of snow making or snow delivery systems; snow grooming equipment or other over-snow vehicles marked or lighted as required by this chapter; or collisions with or falls resulting from any such structures or any other manmade structures or their components;
(E) Variations in surface, contour, or steepness of terrain, including, but not limited to, moguls, ski jumps, roads, depressions, water bars, and cat walks; other terrain changes or modifications which occur naturally or result from slope design or construction, snow making, snow grooming, maintenance operations, or skier use; or collisions with or falls resulting from such variations; and
(F) Collisions with other skiers unless such collisions are caused by the failure on the part of other skiers to conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
(5) “Passenger” means a person who is lawfully being transported by a passenger tramway.
(6) “Passenger tramway” means any mechanical device used to transport passengers uphill, but such term does not include over-snow vehicles.
(7) “Ski area” means all snow ski slopes or trails and other places under the control of a ski area operator at a defined business location within this state.
(8) “Ski area operator” means an individual, partnership, corporation, or other commercial entity who owns, manages, or otherwise directs or has operational responsibility for any ski area.
(9) “Ski slopes or trails” means those areas open to the skiing public and designated by the ski area operator to be used by a skier. The designation may be generally set forth on trail maps and further designated by signage posted to indicate to the skiing public the intent that the areas be used by the skier for the purpose of skiing. Nothing in this paragraph implies that ski slopes or trails may not be restricted for use at the discretion of the ski area operator.
(10) “Skier” means any person who uses any part of a ski area for the purpose of skiing, snowboard skiing, or sliding or moving on any device other than a motorized device or any person except a passenger who uses any of the facilities of the ski area, including the ski slopes and trails.
(11) “Surface lift” means any passenger tramway that allows the skier’s sliding equipment to stay in contact with the skier and the snow during all of the uphill transportation.
§ 43-43A-2. Use of passenger tramway; passenger rules
(a) No passenger shall use a passenger tramway if the passenger does not have sufficient knowledge, ability, or physical dexterity to negotiate or use the facility safely unless and until the passenger has asked for and received information sufficient to enable the passenger to use the equipment safely. A passenger is required to follow any written, verbal, or other instructions that are given by ski area personnel regarding the use of the passenger tramway.
(b) No passenger shall:
(1) Attempt to enter, use, exit, or leave a passenger tramway except at a location designated by ski area signage for that purpose, except that, in the event of a stoppage of the passenger tramway, a passenger may exit under the supervision and direction of the operator or its representatives, or, in the event of an emergency, a passenger may exit in order to prevent an injury to the passenger or others;
(2) Throw, drop, or release any object from a passenger tramway except as directed by the operator or its representatives;
(3) Act in any manner that may interfere with the proper or safe operation of the passenger tramway or cause any risk, harm, or injury to any person;
(4) Place in an uphill track of any surface lift any object that may cause damage to property or injury to any person;
(5) Use or attempt to use any passenger tramway marked as closed; or
(6) Disobey any instructions posted in accordance with this chapter or any verbal or other instructions of the ski area operator or its lawful designee regarding the use of passenger tramways.
§ 43-43A-3. Sign system; inspection; explanation of signs and symbols; warning signs; degree of difficulty signs
(a) Each ski area operator shall maintain a sign system with information for the instruction of passengers and skiers. Signs must be in English and visible in conditions of ordinary visibility and, where applicable, lighted for nighttime passengers. Without limitation, the signs shall be posted:
(1) At or near the loading point of each passenger tramway, regardless of the type, advising all persons that if they are not familiar with the operation of the device, they must ask the operator of the device for assistance and instructions and that they must understand such instructions before they attempt to use the passenger tramway; and
(2) At or near the boarding area of each lift, setting forth the warning regarding inherent dangers and risks and duties as provided in this chapter.
(b) The ski area operator, before opening a passenger tramway to the public each day, shall inspect the passenger tramway for the presence and visibility of all required signs.
(c) The ski area operator shall post a sign visible to skiers who are proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift which shall depict and explain the following signs and symbols that a skier may encounter at the ski area:
(1) A green circle and the word “easier” designating the ski area’s least difficult trails and slopes;
(2) A blue square and the words “more difficult” designating the ski area’s trails and slopes that have a degree of difficulty that lies between the least difficult and most difficult trails and slopes;
(3) A black diamond and the words “most difficult” designating the ski area’s most difficult trails and slopes;
(4) Two black diamonds and the words “most difficult” designating a slope or trail which meets the description of “most difficult” but which is particularly challenging; and
(5) Crossed poles or other images clearly indicating that a trail or slope is closed and may not be used by skiers.
(d) If applicable, a warning sign shall be placed at or near the loading point of a passenger tramway indicating that it provides access to only “most difficult” or “more difficult” slopes or trails.
(e) The ski area operator shall place a sign at or near the beginning of each trail or slope indicating the relative degree of difficulty of that particular trail or slope.
§ 43-43A-4. Warning notice
(a) The ski area operator shall post and maintain signs that contain the following warning notice:
“WARNING: Under Georgia law, every skier accepts the risk of any injury or death and damage to property resulting from any of the inherent dangers or risks of skiing. The inherent dangers or risks of skiing, or conditions of the sport of skiing that cause or can cause injury, death, or property damage, include:
(1) Changing weather conditions;
(2) Surface and subsurface snow or ice conditions as they may exist or change from time to time, including variable conditions such as hard packed powder, packed powder, wind-blown snow, wind-packed snow, corn snow, crust slush, snow modified by skier use, or cut up snow; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions as they exist or may change as the result of weather changes or skier use; snow created by or resulting from snow making or snow grooming operations; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;
(3) Surface or subsurface conditions other than those specified in paragraph (2), including dirt, grass, rocks, trees, stumps, other forms of forest or vegetative growth, stream beds, or other natural objects or debris; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;
(4) Collisions with: lift towers; components of lift towers; signs, posts, fences, mazes, or other enclosure devices; hydrants, pipes, or any other portions of snow making or snow delivery systems; snow grooming equipment or other over-snow vehicles marked or lighted as required by this chapter; or collisions with or falls resulting from any such structures or any other manmade structures or their components;
(5) Variations in surface, contour, or steepness of terrain, including, but not limited to, moguls, ski jumps, roads, depressions, water bars, and cat walks; other terrain changes or modifications which occur naturally or result from slope design or construction, snow making, snow grooming, maintenance operations, or skier use; or collisions with or falls resulting from such variations; and
(6) Collisions with other skiers.”
(b) A warning sign as described in subsection (a) of this Code section shall be placed:
(1) At the ski area in the location where lift tickets or ski school lessons are sold;
(2) In the vicinity of the uphill loading point of each base area lift; and
(3) At such other places as the ski area operator may select.
(c) Each sign required by subsection (a) of this Code section shall be no smaller than 3 feet by 3 feet and shall be white or yellow with black and red letters as specified in this subsection. The word “WARNING” shall appear on the sign in red letters. The warning notice specified in subsection (a) of this Code section shall appear on the sign in black letters with each letter being a minimum of one inch in height.
(d) Every passenger tramway ticket sold may contain the warning notice specified in subsection (a) of this Code section.
§ 43-43A-6. Revocation of skiing privileges
Each ski area operator, upon finding a person skiing in violation of any posted regulations governing skiing conduct, may revoke that person’s skiing privileges. This Code section shall not in any way be construed to create an affirmative duty on the part of the ski area operator to protect skiers from their own or other skiers’ careless or reckless behavior, including any skier’s violation of any duties set forth in this chapter.
§ 43-43A-7. Duties and responsibilities of each skier; assumption of risk
Any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding:
(1) Each individual skier has the responsibility for knowing the range of his or her own ability to negotiate any ski slope or trail or any portion thereof and must ski within the limits of his or her ability. Each skier expressly accepts and assumes the risk of any injury or death or damage to property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing, as set forth in this chapter; provided, however, that injuries sustained in a collision with another skier are not an inherent risk of the sport for purposes of this Code section;
(2) Each skier has the duty to maintain control of his or her speed and course at all times and to maintain a proper lookout so as to be able to avoid other skiers and objects, natural or manmade. The skier shall have the primary duty to avoid colliding with any persons or objects below him or her on the trail;
(3) No skier shall ski on a ski slope or trail that has been posted as closed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter;
(4) Each skier shall stay clear of all snow grooming or snow making equipment, vehicles, lift towers, signs, and any other equipment at the ski area;
(5) Each skier shall obey all posted information, warnings, and requirements and shall refrain from acting in any manner that might cause or contribute to the injury of the skier or any other person. Each skier shall be charged with having seen and understood all information posted as required or permitted in this chapter. Each skier shall locate and ascertain the meaning of all signs posted in accordance with this chapter;
(6) Each sliding device used by a skier shall be equipped with a strap or other device designed to help reduce the risk of any runaway equipment should it become unattached from the skier;
(7) No skier shall cross the uphill track of any surface lift device except at locations designated by the operator, nor shall any person place any object in the uphill track of such a device;
(8) Before beginning to ski from a stationary position, or before entering a ski slope or trail, the skier shall have the duty of yielding to moving skiers already using the slope or trail;
(9) No skier shall stop where he or she obstructs a trail or is not visible from higher on the slope or trail; and
(10) No skier shall board or use or attempt to board or use any passenger tramway of any type or use any ski slope or trail while that skier’s ability to do so is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any controlled substance.
Release for renting skis stops litigation over failing of the binding to release.
In this case, the plaintiff rented skis from the defendant in Georgia. The plaintiff completed the rental agreement which included a fairly well written release. The rental company from the decision, asked the proper questions to calculate the DIN setting which in this case was 5 ½.
The plaintiff took the rented equipment on a ski trip. He made several runs, falling “uneventfully” the first day. None of those falls released the plaintiff from the bindings. On the last run while attempting to stop he fell releasing one binding but not the other. The leg in binding that failed to release suffered the classic skiing injury, torn ligaments in the plaintiff’s knee.
After the injury, the ski rental shop tested the binding which the test showed the binding passed.
The plaintiff sued for “breach of warranty, breach of contract, and negligence” and the plaintiff’s spouse sued for loss of a consortium. The defendant used the defense of release, and the trial court granted the defense motion for summary judgment.
Summary of the case
The first area of the law the court spoke to was the fact the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant were bailor-bailee. Normally, this term is applied to someone in possession of another’s property. A valet is the bailee of your car when you hand over the keys. You are the bailor, the legal owner who has given temporary possession to another.
Once the court determined the relationship between the parties, then the court could conclude that the relationship was governed by the rental agreement.
The court then found that the plaintiff had failed to produce any evidence of negligence upon the part of the defendant. Then in a footnote, the court found that if the plaintiff had found evidence of negligence, the plaintiff still would have been bound by assumption of the risk. The court then went back to release and stated that even if negligence had been shown, the release would have prevented the suit.
“…in Georgia, the general rule is that a party may exempt himself by contract from liability to the other party for injuries caused by his negligence, and the agreement is not void for contravening public policy.”
The court then concluded the release did just that.
The remaining claims of the plaintiff were dismissed based on the analysis or the release.
The court finished with this line.
It is difficult to envision how the waiver language here could have been any clearer.
So Now What?
Get a good release written. Have your clients sign the release. Make sure your equipment meets the standards of the industry and maybe if you are faced with this issue, you will see this short and sweat answer to any litigation.
Plaintiff: Mr. and Mrs. Benford, no first name was ever given
Defendant: RDL, Inc. d/b/a Rocky Mountain Ski Shop
Plaintiff Claims: breach of warranty, breach of contract, and negligence and Mrs. Benford’s claim of loss of consortium
Defendant Defenses: Release
Holding: For the defendant on the release
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Benford et al. v. RDL, Inc., 223 Ga. App. 800; 479 S.E.2d 110; 1996 Ga. App. LEXIS 1284; 96 Fulton County D. Rep. 4312Posted: March 18, 2013
Benford et al. v. RDL, Inc., 223 Ga. App. 800; 479 S.E.2d 110; 1996 Ga. App. LEXIS 1284; 96 Fulton County D. Rep. 4312
Benford et al. v. RDL, Inc.
223 Ga. App. 800; 479 S.E.2d 110; 1996 Ga. App. LEXIS 1284; 96 Fulton County D. Rep. 4312
December 4, 1996, Decided
SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: [***1] Certiorari Applied For.
PRIOR HISTORY: Bailment; release. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Cook.
DISPOSITION: Judgment affirmed.
COUNSEL: James B. Gurley, for appellants.
Long, Weinberg, Ansley & Wheeler, Kenneth M. Barre, for appellee.
JUDGES: ANDREWS, Judge. Pope, P. J., and Smith, J., concur.
OPINION BY: ANDREWS
[**111] [*800] ANDREWS, Judge.
Mr. Benford and his wife appeal from the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to RDL, Inc. d/b/a Rocky Mountain Ski Shop in Mr. Benford’s suit alleging breach of warranty, breach of contract, and negligence and Mrs. Benford’s claim of loss of consortium.
1. Viewed under the standard of Lau’s Corp. v. Haskins, 261 Ga. 491 (405 S.E.2d 474) (1991), the evidence on summary judgment was that Mr. Benford went to the ski shop on December 12, 1992 to rent skis and boots for an upcoming ski trip. He was assisted by Cooper, [*801] who asked Benford to pick out a pair of boots and to complete and sign a Rental Agreement and Release of Liability. Benford acknowledged reading, initialling, and signing the document which states that:
“I accept for use as is the equipment listed on this form and accept full responsibility for the care of this equipment. I have made no misrepresentations to this [***2] ski shop regarding my height, weight, age or skiing ability.
“I understand and am aware that skiing is a HAZARDOUS activity. I understand that the sport of skiing and the use of this ski equipment involve a risk of injury to any and all parts of my body. I hereby agree to freely and expressly assume and accept any and all risks of injury or death to the user of this equipment while skiing.
“I understand that the ski equipment being furnished forms a part or all of a ski-boot-binding system which will NOT RELEASE at all times or under all circumstances, and that it is not possible to predict every situation in which it will or will not release, and that its use cannot guarantee my safety or freedom from injury while skiing. I further agree and understand that this ski-boot- binding system may reduce but NOT eliminate the risk of injuries to the lower portion of my leg. However, I agree and understand that this ski-boot-binding system does NOT reduce the risk of injuries to my knees or any other parts of my body.
“I agree that I will release this ski shop from any and all responsibility or liability for injuries or damages to the user of the equipment listed on this form, or to any [***3] other person. I agree NOT to make a claim against or sue this ski shop for injuries or damages relating to skiing and/or the use of this equipment. (Please initial ) [Benford’s initials].
“In consideration for being able to rent this ski equipment, I hereby agree to accept the terms and conditions of this contract. This document constitutes the final and entire agreement between this ski shop and the undersigned. There are NO WARRANTIES, express or implied, which extend beyond the description of the ski equipment listed on this form.
“I have carefully read this agreement and release of liability and fully understand its contents. I am aware that this is a release of liability and a contract between myself and this ski shop and I sign it of my own free will.”
Pursuant to the height, weight, and skill level information provided by Benford, Cooper set the bindings of the skis at 5 1/2. This setting was based on a chart used in the business which the person doing the settings consults and then makes adjustments to the bindings, toes and heels of the boots.
[**112] Benford picked the skis up on December 26 and left with his wife [*802] and some friends on a ski trip. On the first day of the [***4] trip, Benford had made six or seven ski runs and had fallen uneventfully a couple of times. These falls did not cause the bindings to release. On his last run, Benford was in the process of coming to a stop to assist his wife who had fallen. Because of a change in the slope where he stopped, his center of gravity got out over his skis and he fell. While the right ski did release, the left one did not and he tore ligaments in his left knee. When he returned the skis to the shop, he was given a free week ski rental, good any time.
Because Benford was injured and contended the skis did not release, Jackson, the store manager, had the bindings tested with the Vermont Calibrator, a device used to measure the torque it takes to remove a boot from its binding, and the skis rented by Benford passed the test. All skis rented by the ski shop were tested on this device once a year, and randomly selected sets were tested periodically.
2. Benford acknowledges that these facts establish the relationship of bailor-bailee, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 44-12-60. Therefore, the relationship between them is governed by the terms of the Rental Agreement and the statutory obligations of a bailor under O.C.G.A. § [***5] 44-12-63. Mark Singleton Buick v. Taylor, 194 Ga. App. 630, 632 (1) (391 S.E.2d 435) (1990); Hall v. Skate Escape, Ltd., 171 Ga. App. 178 (319 S.E.2d 67) (1984).
3. Benford has failed totally to come forward with evidence concerning negligence by the ski shop. Lau’s Corp., supra; Prince v. Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Co., 210 Ga. App. 108, 109 (1) (435 S.E.2d 482) (1993). 1
1 Even had he been able to do so, this is one of those rare cases where, as a matter of law, it can be said that Benford assumed the risk of exactly what happened to him. Beringause v. Fogleman Truck Lines, 200 Ga. App. 822, 823 (409 S.E.2d 524) (1991).
Also, even assuming some negligence had been shown, [HN1] “in Georgia, the general rule is that a party may exempt himself by contract from liability to the other party for injuries caused by his negligence, and the agreement is not void for contravening public policy. [Cits.]” Hall, supra at 179. Here, the agreement clearly and prominently did just that. Mercedes-Benz [***6] Credit Corp. v. Shields, 199 Ga. App. 89, 91 (403 S.E.2d 891) (1991).
4. Benford’s claims of breach of warranty and contract suffer the same fate. There is no showing by Benford of any latent defect in the skis or bindings, such as that in Hall, supra. Therefore, the covenant not to sue is not in contravention of O.C.G.A. § 44-12-63 (3). Mercedes-Benz, supra; Citicorp Indus. Credit v. Rountree, 185 Ga. App. 417, 422 (2) (364 S.E.2d 65) (1987). It is difficult to envision how the waiver language here could have been any clearer.
[*803] Judgment affirmed. Pope, P. J., and Smith, J., concur.
By Recreation Law Recfirstname.lastname@example.org James H. Moss Jim Moss