Poorly written release in Massachusetts stop lawsuit for falling off a horse during riding lessons.

Release used poor language and was hidden within an application to learn to ride.

Markovitz v. Cassenti, 56 N.E.3d 894, 90 Mass.App.Ct. 1102 (2016)

State: Massachusetts , Appeals Court of Massachusetts

Plaintiff: Joanne Markovitz

Defendant: Christine Cassenti

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: For the Defendant

Year: 2016

Summary

A release stopped a negligence claim for falling off a horse in Massachusetts. The plaintiff had been riding with the stable for more than a year and had been riding this horse for over a month when she fell off. She argued the Massachusetts Equine Liability Act allowed her to sue. The court said not, the release stopped her lawsuit and her arguments about the Massachusetts Equine Liability Act were incorrect.

Facts

On July 16, 2009, the plaintiff filled out and signed an application for riding lessons at Chrislar Farm. In that application, she wrote that she had six months of riding experience in 2001 and that she wanted to continue to learn to ride. The form contained a section entitled ” RELEASE,” which stated: ” I, the Club member/Student (or parent or guardian) recognize the inherent risks of injury involved in horseback riding/driving and being around horses generally, and in learning to ride/drive in particular. In taking lessons at CHRISLAR FARM or participating in Club activities, I assume any and all such risk of injury and further, I voluntarily release CHRISLAR FARM, its owners, instructors, employees and agents from any and all responsibility on account of any injury I (or my child or ward) may sustain for any reason while on the premises of CHRISLAR FARM or participating in Club activities, and I agree to indemnify and hold harmless CHRISLAR FARM, its owners, instructors, employees and agents on account of any such claim.”

The plaintiff signed the form on the signature line immediately below the release.

Between July of 2009 and September of 2010, the plaintiff took thirty-minute private riding lessons on a regular basis. Between September, 2010, and January, 2011, the plaintiff took one-hour group riding lessons and walked, trotted, and cantered several different horses. On September 3, 2010, the defendants leased a horse named Jolee. Christine Cassenti had known this horse for a long time. The trainer conducting the lessons thought that the horse was ” sweet and did everything you asked her to do.”

The plaintiff first rode Jolee during a ” musical horses” exercise. She then rode Jolee during the next three one-hour group lessons on December 23, 2010, December 30, 2010, and January 6, 2011. At one point during the December 23, 2010, lesson, Jolee went from a trot into a canter and stayed in a circle formation instead of performing a figure eight. Following the instructions from the trainer, the plaintiff slowed down and stopped Jolee. The plaintiff rode Jolee without incident on December 30, 2010, and January 6, 2011.

On January 20, 2011, a year and one-half after the plaintiff began taking lessons at Chrislar Farm, the plaintiff rode Jolee for the fourth time. She noticed that Jolee briefly pinned her ears. After finishing a walk, the plaintiff began trotting Jolee. At one point, Jolee sped up into a faster trot and turned left, causing the plaintiff to lose her balance and fall.

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

The argument the plaintiff attempted to make was the Massachusetts Equine Liability Act created a duty on the part of the defendants that was not protected by the release. The act listed risks which a rider of a horse accepted. The statute had an exception to that list

“Nothing in subsection (b) shall prevent or limit the liability of an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person if the equine activity sponsor, equine professional, or person: ” (1) . . . (ii) provided the equine and failed to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant . . . to safely manage the particular equine based on the participant’s representations of his ability.”

The plaintiff argued this created a new duty which the defendant in this case breached.

However the court found the section did not create a new duty, it only allowed a plaintiff to proceed with a negligence claim in certain exceptional situations. Because the release barred negligence claims the plaintiff’s lawsuit was properly dismissed by the courts.

So Now What?

The odd thing about this case is there was no gross negligence claim to get around the release.

However, the were some risks run by the plaintiff that in other states might have caused problems. They were obvious issues by this court because the court raised them in the facts.

  • The form Application for Riding Lessons also contained the release, hidden in the form.
  • The language in the release was weak and did not contain the word negligence.

But for solid law in Massachusetts supporting releases this case in other states would have gone differently.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Doherty v. Diving Unlimited International, Inc., 484 Mass. 193, 2020 Mass. LEXIS 134, 140 N.E.3d 394, 2020 WL 949922

Doherty v. Diving Unlimited International, Inc., 484 Mass. 193, 2020 Mass. LEXIS 134, 140 N.E.3d 394, 2020 WL 949922

Margaret C. Doherty, personal representative, [ 1]

v.

Diving Unlimited International, Inc., & others.[ 2]

No. SJC-12707

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Essex

February 27, 2020

Heard: October 4, 2019.

Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on May 5, 2015. The case was heard by Janice W. Howe, J., on a motion for summary judgment The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

Neil Rossman for the plaintiff.

Martin K. DeMagistris for John Golbranson.

Jennifer A. Creedon, for Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

John J. Barter, for Professional Liability Foundation, Ltd., amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.

LOWY, J.

Following a fatal scuba diving accident involving the plaintiff’s decedent in May 2014, the plaintiff, as personal representative of the decedent’s estate, brought a wrongful death action under G. L. c. 229, § 2 against the manufacturer of the “dry suit” that the decedent used on his dive, the individual who supplied the decedent his diving equipment and outfitted him, the company that owned and rented that equipment, and the dive leader, John Golbranson. After the plaintiff had settled with all defendants other than Golbranson, a judge of the Superior Court granted summary judgment in his favor based on the release from liability and covenant not to sue that the decedent signed just before his death. The plaintiff appealed, claiming that the statutory beneficiaries have an independent right to a wrongful death action that the decedent could not have waived. We transferred this case from the Appeals Court on our own motion.

As explained in our opinion in GGNSC Admin. Servs., LLCv.Schrader, 484 Mass., (2020) (GGNSC), released today, we conclude that the beneficiaries of a wrongful death action have rights that are derivative of, rather than independent from, any claim the decedent could have brought for the injuries causing his death. Therefore, the waivers the decedent signed control all claims for his wrongful death. Accordingly, we affirm the grant of summary judgment.

1. Background.

a. Facts.

“In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, we view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Meyerv.Veolia Energy N. Am., 482 Mass. 208, 209 (2019). Here, where the plaintiff does not contest on appeal the judge’s determination that the waivers were valid, or that Golbranson was acting as an agent for Diving Unlimited International, Inc. (DUI), the manufacturer of the dry suit that the decedent wore on his dive, we present only the essential facts.

The decedent, who was a certified open-water scuba diver, drowned while participating in a promotional diving equipment event that was sponsored by DUI and held in Gloucester. At this event, where local divers tested DUI’s dry suit, Golbranson was the leader of the dive, overseeing some of the participants.

Prior to participating in the event, the decedent signed two documents. The first was a release from liability which had several subsections that were set forth in all capital letters and underlined, including “effect of agreement,” “assumption of risk,” “full release,” “covenant not to sue,” “indemnity agreement,” and “arbitration.” In capital letters under the subsection titled “effect of agreement,” it said, “Diver gives up valuable rights, including the right to sue for injuries or death.” It also told the decedent to read the agreement carefully and not to sign it “unless or until you understand.” The subsection titled “full release” stated that the decedent “fully release[d] DUI from any liability whatsoever resulting from diving or associated activities,” and the subsection titled “covenant not to sue” stated that the decedent agreed “not to sue DUI for personal injury arising from scuba diving or its associated activities,” and that the decedent’s “heirs or executors may not sue DUI for death arising from scuba diving or its associated activities.”

The decedent also signed an equipment rental agreement which stated, “This agreement is a release of the [decedent’s] rights to sue for injuries or death resulting from the rental and/or use of this equipment. The [decedent] expressly assumes all risks of skin and/or scuba diving related in any way to the rental and/or use of this equipment.”

Golbranson led a group comprised of the decedent and two other divers. During their dive, one of the divers experienced a depleted air supply. Golbranson signaled for the group to surface and to swim back to shore on the surface. Only the decedent resisted, emphasizing his desire to keep diving, thus separating himself from the group that was returning to shore. Shortly thereafter, the decedent surfaced and called for help. The decedent died at the hospital from “scuba drowning after unequal weight belt distribution.”

b. Procedural history.

In her capacity as the decedent’s personal representative, the plaintiff sued for the benefit of the decedent’s statutory beneficiaries. The second amended complaint alleged two counts against Golbranson resulting from his negligence: (1) conscious pain and suffering; and (2) the decedent’s wrongful death under G. L. c. 229, § 2. Golbranson moved for summary judgment, claiming that the release from liability and the equipment rental agreement (collectively waivers) protected him, as an agent of DUI, against any negligence suit or liability. The plaintiff opposed summary judgment, asserting that the waivers did not apply to Golbranson when he was negligent in his individual capacity and that neither waiver would prevent the decedent’s statutory beneficiaries from recovering damages for wrongful death.

The judge determined, and the plaintiff does not contest on appeal, that Golbranson acted as DUI’s agent during the dive. The judge also concluded that the two waivers that the decedent signed prohibited the plaintiff from bringing an action for negligence against Golbranson.[ 3]

As to the wrongful death claim, the judge concluded that G. L. c. 229, § 2, created a right to recovery that is derivative of the decedent’s own cause of action.[ 4] In addition, she concluded that the agreements were valid and, thus, precluded any recovery on behalf of the decedent’s statutory beneficiaries, who had no rights independent of the decedent’s cause of action, which was waived.

2. Discussion.

We review “a grant of summary judgment de novo … to determine whether . . . all material facts have been established and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law” (quotation and citation omitted). Boston Globe Media Partners, LLCv.Pep’t of Pub. Health, 482 Mass. 427, 431 (2019) .

Given that the plaintiff does not contest the judge’s determinations that the release from liability and the equipment rental agreement are valid and that those waivers covered Golbranson as an agent of PUI, the only issue before the court is whether the statutory beneficiaries in the action for wrongful death have a right to recover damages that is independent of the decedent’s own cause of action. See G. L. c. 229, §§ 1, 2. In GGNSC, 484 Mass. at, we have resolved that issue: our wrongful death statute creates a derivative right of recovery for the statutory beneficiaries listed in G. L. c. 229, § 1. Therefore, we hold that here, the valid waivers signed by the decedent preclude the plaintiff, as his “executor or personal representative,” from bringing a lawsuit under G. L. c. 229, § 2, for the benefit of the statutory beneficiaries.[ 5]

3. Conclusion.

We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court granting Golbranson’s motion for summary judgment.

So ordered.

———

Notes:

[ 1] Of the estate of Gregg C. O’Brien.

[ 2] Nicholas Fazah, EC Divers, Inc., and John Golbranson.

[ 3] As to the conscious pain and suffering claim, the judge found that the waivers negated the plaintiff’s ability to recover, because the decedent clearly had the authority to waive those rights.

[ 4] In her analysis, the judge relied on a decision by a judge of the United States Pistrict Court for the Pistrict of Massachusetts that underlay our opinion in GGNSC. See GGNSC, 484 Mass. at

[ 5] Golbranson devotes much time arguing that the release from liability and the equipment rental agreement negate any duty he may have had to the decedent. We note that the release from liability was limited to “claims concern[ing] ordinary negligence,” Sharonv.Newton, 437 Mass. 99, 110 n.l2 (2002), and Golbranson does not contend that the waivers would have applied to other forms of malfeasance, such as gross negligence, or willful, wanton, or reckless acts. We have “consistently recognized that there is a certain core duty — a certain irreducible minimum duty of care, owed to all persons — that as a matter of public policy cannot be abrogated: that is, the duty not to intentionally or recklessly cause harm to others.” Raffertyv.Merck & Co., 479 Mass. 141, 155 (2018). Specifically, “‘while a party may contract against liability for harm caused by its negligence, it may not do so with respect to its gross negligence’ or, for that matter, its reckless or intentional conduct.” I_d., quoting Maryland Cas. Co. v. NS_TAR Elec. Co., 471 Mass. 416, 422 (2015). Nonetheless, only the decedent’s executor or administrator has the right to bring a cause of action for gross negligence, not the statutory beneficiaries.

———


Markovitz v. Cassenti, 56 N.E.3d 894, 90 Mass.App.Ct. 1102 (2016)

Markovitz v. Cassenti, 56 N.E.3d 894, 90 Mass.App.Ct. 1102 (2016)

90 Mass.App.Ct. 1102 (2016)

56 N.E.3d 894

Joanne Markovitz & another [ 1]

Christine Cassenti & another. [ 2]

15-P-1274

Appeals Court of Massachusetts

August 18, 2016

Editorial Note:

This decision has been referenced in an “Appeals Court of Massachusetts Summary Dispositions” table in the North Eastern Reporter. And pursuant to its rule 1:28, As Amended by 73 Mass.App.Ct. 1001 (2009) are primarily addressed to the parties and, therefore, may not fully address the facts of the case or the panel’s decisional rationale. Moreover, rule 1:28 decisions are not circulated to the entire court and, therefore, represent only the views of the panel that decided the case. A summary decision pursuant to rule 1:28, issued after February 25, 2008, may be cited for its persuasive value but, because of the limitations noted above, not as binding precedent. See Chace v. Curran, 71 Mass.App.Ct. 258, 260 N.4, 881 N.E.2d 792 (2008).

Judgment affirmed.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER PURSUANT TO RULE 1:28

In this negligence action arising out of the plaintiff’s injury following her fall off a horse during a group riding lesson at defendants’ Chrislar Farm, a Superior Court judge granted summary judgment for the defendants.[ 3] The plaintiff appealed.

Background.

On July 16, 2009, the plaintiff filled out and signed an application for riding lessons at Chrislar Farm. In that application, she wrote that she had six months of riding experience in 2001 and that she wanted to continue to learn to ride. The form contained a section entitled ” RELEASE,” which stated: ” I, the Club member/Student (or parent or guardian) recognize the inherent risks of injury involved in horseback riding/driving and being around horses generally, and in learning to ride/drive in particular. In taking lessons at CHRISLAR FARM or participating in Club activities, I assume any and all such risk of injury and further, I voluntarily release CHRISLAR FARM, its owners, instructors, employees and agents from any and all responsibility on account of any injury I (or my child or ward) may sustain for any reason while on the premises of CHRISLAR FARM or participating in Club activities, and I agree to indemnify and hold harmless CHRISLAR FARM, its owners, instructors, employees and agents on account of any such claim.”

The plaintiff signed the form on the signature line immediately below the release.[ 4]

Between July of 2009 and September of 2010, the plaintiff took thirty-minute private riding lessons on a regular basis. Between September, 2010, and January, 2011, the plaintiff took one-hour group riding lessons and walked, trotted, and cantered several different horses. On September 3, 2010, the defendants leased a horse named Jolee. Christine Cassenti had known this horse for a long time. The trainer conducting the lessons thought that the horse was ” sweet and did everything you asked her to do.”

The plaintiff first rode Jolee during a ” musical horses” exercise. She then rode Jolee during the next three one-hour group lessons on December 23, 2010, December 30, 2010, and January 6, 2011. At one point during the December 23, 2010, lesson, Jolee went from a trot into a canter and stayed in a circle formation instead of performing a figure eight. Following the instructions from the trainer, the plaintiff slowed down and stopped Jolee. The plaintiff rode Jolee without incident on December 30, 2010, and January 6, 2011.

On January 20, 2011, a year and one-half after the plaintiff began taking lessons at Chrislar Farm, the plaintiff rode Jolee for the fourth time. She noticed that Jolee briefly pinned her ears. After finishing a walk, the plaintiff began trotting Jolee. At one point, Jolee sped up into a faster trot and turned left, causing the plaintiff to lose her balance and fall.

Discussion.

Massachusetts courts have generally upheld release agreements immunizing defendants from future liability for their negligent acts, including in cases related to sports and recreation. See Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., Inc., 349 Mass. 544, 550, 552, 209 N.E.2d 329 (1965) (spectator at pit area of speedway); Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of the Natl. Safety Council, 416 Mass. 286, 288-289, 620 N.E.2d 784 (1993) (beginner rider in motorcycle safety class); Sharon v. Newton, 437 Mass. 99, 105-107, 769 N.E.2d 738 (2002) (student at cheerleading practice). The challenges to releases from liability have regularly been resolved by summary judgment. See, e.g., Cormier, supra at 287; Sharon, supra at 103; Gonsalves v. Commonwealth, 27 Mass.App.Ct. 606, 606, 541 N.E.2d 366 (1989). In this case, we conclude that the release signed by the plaintiff, which the plaintiff has not challenged as unclear or ambiguous, barred her negligence claim.[ 5]

To avoid the preclusive effect of the release, the plaintiff argues that she was entitled to proceed under G. L. c. 128, § 2D( c )(1)(ii), inserted by St. 1992, c. 212, § 1, which provides one of the exceptions to the exemption from liability: ” Nothing in subsection (b) shall prevent or limit the liability of an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person if the equine activity sponsor, equine professional, or person: ” (1) . . . (ii) provided the equine and failed to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant . . . to safely manage the particular equine based on the participant’s representations of his ability.” [ 6]

Rather than creating a new duty in addition to those that already exist under our common law, as argued by the plaintiff, this subsection provides an exception to the overall bar to liability established by the statute, and allows a plaintiff to proceed with a negligence claim in certain limited circumstances. Because the statute does not create new duties on the part of the equine professional, the plaintiff cannot rely on it to avoid the preclusive effect of the release she signed. This case is distinguishable from Pinto v. Revere-Saugus Riding Academy, Inc., 74 Mass.App.Ct. 389, 395, 907 N.E.2d 259 (2009), which did not involve a release.

Where the release is dispositive of the plaintiff’s claim, we need not decide if there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether the defendants failed to make reasonable efforts to determine the plaintiff’s ability to safely manage Jolee.

Judgment affirmed.

Cohen, Agnes & Henry, JJ.[ 7].

———

Notes:

[1]Gabriel Markovitz. He claimed loss of consortium.

[2]Lawrence Cassenti.

[3]For simplicity, we will refer to Joanne Markovitz as the plaintiff.

[4]The form also contained the following: ” WARNING: Under Massachusetts law, an equine professional is not liable for any injury to, or the death of, a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities, pursuant to Chapter 128, Section 2D of the General Laws.”

[5]” [W]hile a party may contract against liability for harm caused by its negligence, it may not do so with respect to its gross negligence.” Zavras v. Capeway Rovers Motorcycle Club, Inc., 44 Mass.App.Ct. 17, 19, 687 N.E.2d 1263 (1997). In a footnote in her brief, the plaintiff argues that it is a question of fact whether the trainer’s conduct amounted to gross negligence or wilful and wanton conduct. Here, viewing the summary judgment record in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, she cannot make out a case of gross negligence.

[6]The complaint contains a negligence count and a loss of consortium count. There is no mention of G. L. c. 128, § 2D.

[7]The panelists are listed in order of seniority.

———


Massachusetts Equine Liability Act

GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS

Part I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

Title XIX. AGRICULTURE AND CONSERVATION

Chapter 128. AGRICULTURE

§ 128:2D. Liability of equine professionals and equine activity sponsors

(a)    For the purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:

“Engage in an equine activity”, riding, training, assisting in veterinary treatment of, driving, or being a passenger upon an equine, whether mounted or unmounted, visiting or touring or utilizing an equine facility as part of an organized event or activity, or assisting a participant or show management. The term “engage in an equine activity” shall not include being a spectator at an equine activity, except in cases where the spectator places himself in an unauthorized area or in immediate proximity to the equine activity.

“Equine”, a horse, pony, mule, or donkey.

“Equine activity”

(1)    equine shows, fairs, competitions, performances, or parades that involve any or all breeds of equines and any of the equine disciplines, including, but not limited to, dressage, hunter and jumper horse shows, grand prix jumping, three-day events, combined training, rodeos, riding, driving, pulling, cutting, polo, steeplechasing, English and western performance riding, endurance trail riding, gymkhana games, and hunting;

(2)    equine training or teaching activities or both;

(3)    boarding equines; including normal daily care thereof;

(4)    riding, inspecting, or evaluating by a purchaser or an agent an equine belonging to another, whether or not the owner has received some monetary consideration or other thing of value for the use of the equine or is permitting a prospective purchaser of the equine to ride, inspect, or evaluate the equine;

(5)    rides, trips, hunts or other equine activities of any type however informal or impromptu that are sponsored by an equine activity sponsor;

(6)    placing or replacing horseshoes or hoof trimming on an equine; and

(7)    providing or assisting in veterinary treatment.

“Equine activity sponsor”, an individual, group, club, partnership, or corporation, whether or not the sponsor is operating for profit or nonprofit, which sponsors, organizes, or provides the facilities for, an equine activity, including but not limited to: pony clubs, 4-H clubs, hunt clubs, riding clubs, school and college-sponsored classes, programs and activities, therapeutic riding programs, stable and farm owners and operators, instructors, and promoters of equine facilities, including but not limited to farms, stables, clubhouses, pony ride strings, fairs, and arenas at which the activity is held.

“Equine professional”, a person engaged for compensation:

(1)    in instructing a participant or renting to a participant an equine for the purpose of riding, driving or being a passenger upon the equine;

(2)    in renting equipment or tack to a participant;

(3)    to provide daily care of horses boarded at an equine facility; or

(4)    to train an equine.

“Inherent risks of equine activities”, dangers or conditions which are an integral part of equine activities, including but not limited to:

(1)    The propensity of equines to behave in ways that may result in injury, harm, or death to persons on or around them;

(2)    the unpredictability of an equine’s reaction to such things as sounds, sudden movement, and unfamiliar objects, persons, or other animals;

(3)    certain hazards such as surface and subsurface conditions;

(4)    collisions with other equines or objects;

(5)    the potential of a participant to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to injury to the participant or others, such as failing to maintain control over the animal or not acting within his ability.

“Participant”, any person, whether amateur or professional, who engages in an equine activity, whether or not a fee is paid to participate in such equine activity.

(b)    Except as provided in subsection (c), an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person, which shall include a corporation or partnership, shall not be liable for an injury to or the death of a participant resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities and, except as provided in said subsection (c), no participant nor participant’s representative shall make any claim against, maintain an action against, or recover from an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person for injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting from any of the inherent risks of equine activities.

(c)    This section shall not apply to the racing meetings as defined by section one of chapter one hundred and twenty-eight A.

Nothing in subsection (b) shall prevent or limit the liability of an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person if the equine activity sponsor, equine professional, or person:

(1)

(i)    provided the equipment or tack, and knew or should have known that the equipment or tack was faulty, and such equipment or tack was faulty to the extent that it did cause the injury; or

(ii)    provided the equine and failed to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the equine activity, and determine the ability of the participant to safely manage the particular equine based on the participant’s representations of his ability;

(2)    owns, leases, rents, has authorized use of, or is otherwise 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 to the equine activity sponsor, equine professional, or person and for which warning signs, pursuant to subsection (d), have not been conspicuously posted;

(3)    commits an act of omission that constitutes willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant, and that act of omission caused the injury; or

(4)    intentionally injures the participant.

(d)

(1)    Every equine professional shall post and maintain signs which contain the warning notice specified in paragraph (2). Such signs shall be placed in a clearly visible location in the proximity of the equine activity. The warning notice specified in said paragraph (2) 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 equine professional for the providing of professional services, instruction, or the rental of equipment or tack or an equine to a participant, whether or not the contract involves equine activities on or off the location or site of the equine professional’s business, shall contain in clearly readable print the warning notice specified in said paragraph (2).

(2)    The signs and contracts described in paragraph (1) shall contain the following notice:

Under Massachusetts law, an equine professional is not liable for an injury to, or the death of, a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities, pursuant to section 2D of chapter 128 of the General Laws.

Cite as Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 128, § 2D


States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

If your state is not listed here, you should assume a parent cannot waive a minor’s right to sue in your state.

State

By Statute

Restrictions

Alaska Alaska: Sec. 09.65.292 Sec. 05.45.120 does not allow using a release by ski areas for ski injuries
Arizona ARS § 12-553 Limited to Equine Activities
Colorado C.R.S. §§13-22-107
Florida Florida Statute § 744.301 (3) Florida statute that allows a parent to release a minor’s right to sue
Virginia Chapter 62. Equine Activity Liability § 3.2-6202. Liability limited; liability actions prohibited Allows a parent to sign a release for a minor for equine activities
Utah 78B-4-203. Limitations on Liability for Equine and Livestock Activities Limited to Equine Activities
(b) providing a document or release for the participant, or the participant’s legal guardian if the participant is a minor, to sign.

By Case Law

California Hohe v. San Diego Unified Sch. Dist., 224 Cal.App.3d 1559, 274 Cal.Rptr. 647 (1990)
Florida Global Travel Marketing, Inc v. Shea, 2005 Fla. LEXIS 1454 Allows a release signed by a parent to require arbitration of the minor’s claims
Florida Gonzalez v. City of Coral Gables, 871 So.2d 1067, 29 Fla. L. Weekly D1147 Release can be used for volunteer activities and by government entities
Maryland BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen, 435 Md. 714; 80 A.3d 345; 2013 Md. LEXIS 897 Maryland top court allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue. Release was not fantastic, but good enough.
Massachusetts Sharon v. City of Newton, 437 Mass. 99; 769 N.E.2d 738; 2002 Mass. LEXIS 384
Minnesota Moore vs. Minnesota Baseball Instructional School, 2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 299
North Dakota McPhail v. Bismarck Park District, 2003 ND 4; 655 N.W.2d 411; 2003 N.D. LEXIS 3 North Dakota decision allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue
Ohio Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc., 696 N.E.2d 201, 82 Ohio St.3d 367 (1998) Ohio Appellate decision upholds the use of a release for a minor for a commercial activity
Wisconsin Osborn v. Cascade Mountain, Inc., 655 N.W.2d 546, 259 Wis. 2d 481, 2002 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1216, 2003 WI App 1 However the decision in Atkins v. Swimwest Family Fitness Center, 2005 WI 4; 2005 Wisc. LEXIS 2 may void all releases in the state

On the Edge, but not enough to really rely on

Decisions are by the Federal District Courts and only preliminary motions
North Carolina Kelly v. United States of America, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89741 North Carolina may allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue for injuries when the minor is engaged in non-profit activities sponsored by schools, volunteers, or community organizations
New York DiFrancesco v. Win-Sum Ski Corp., Holiday Valley, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39695 New York Federal Magistrate in a Motion in Limine, hearing holds the New York Skier Safety Statute allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue

If your state is not listed here, you should assume a parent cannot waive a minor’s right to sue in your state.

State

By Statute Restrictions
Alaska Alaska: Sec. 09.65.292 Sec. 05.45.120 does not allow using a release by ski areas for ski injuries
Arizona ARS § 12-553 Limited to Equine Activities
Colorado C.R.S. §§13-22-107
Florida Florida Statute § 744.301 (3) Florida statute that allows a parent to release a minor’s right to sue
Virginia Chapter 62.  Equine Activity Liability § 3.2-6202.  Liability limited; liability actions prohibited Allows a parent to sign a release for a minor for equine activities
Utah 78B-4-203.  Limitations on Liability for Equine and Livestock Activities Limited to Equine Activities
(b) providing a document or release for the participant, or the participant’s legal guardian if the participant is a minor, to sign.
 

By Case Law

California Hohe v. San Diego Unified Sch. Dist., 224 Cal.App.3d 1559, 274 Cal.Rptr. 647 (1990)
Florida Global Travel Marketing, Inc v. Shea, 2005 Fla. LEXIS 1454 Allows a release signed by a parent to require arbitration of the minor’s claims
Florida Gonzalez v. City of Coral Gables, 871 So.2d 1067, 29 Fla. L. Weekly D1147 Release can be used for volunteer activities and by government entities
Maryland BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen, 435 Md. 714; 80 A.3d 345; 2013 Md. LEXIS 897 Maryland top court allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue. Release was not fantastic, but good enough.
Massachusetts Sharon v. City of Newton, 437 Mass. 99; 769 N.E.2d 738; 2002 Mass. LEXIS 384
Minnesota Moore vs. Minnesota Baseball Instructional School, 2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 299
North Dakota McPhail v. Bismarck Park District, 2003 ND 4; 655 N.W.2d 411; 2003 N.D. LEXIS 3 North Dakota decision allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue
Ohio Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc., 696 N.E.2d 201, 82 Ohio St.3d 367 (1998) Ohio Appellate decision upholds the use of a release for a minor for a commercial activity
Wisconsin Osborn v. Cascade Mountain, Inc., 655 N.W.2d 546, 259 Wis. 2d 481, 2002 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1216, 2003 WI App 1 However the decision in Atkins v. Swimwest Family Fitness Center, 2005 WI 4; 2005 Wisc. LEXIS 2 may void all releases in the state
 

On the Edge, but not enough to really rely on

Decisions are by the Federal District Courts and only preliminary motions
North Carolina Kelly v. United States of America, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89741 North Carolina may allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue for injuries when the minor is engaged in non-profit activities sponsored by schools, volunteers, or community organizations
New York DiFrancesco v. Win-Sum Ski Corp., Holiday Valley, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39695 New York Federal Magistrate in a Motion in Limine, hearing holds the New York Skier Safety Statute allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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MassBike Bills Receive Substantial Sponsors

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THANK YOUMassBike Bills Receive Substantial Sponsors

March 9, 2015

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State House and Common, in the Snow Copyright Leslie Jones, provided by Boston Public Library under Creative Commons License
State House and Common, in the Snow Copyright Leslie Jones, provided by Boston Public Library under Creative Commons License

The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (“MassBike”) is deeply appreciative of each of the state legislators that sponsored bills to make our roadways safer and more convenient for bicyclists. As the newly appointed executive director of MassBike I want to acknowledge and thank them for showing the political courage to support cycling and cyclists in Massachusetts. Please join me in thanking your senators and representatives for sponsoring these important bills. You can find out how here, or look for your districts below.

Apparently things are changing for the better for bicycling here in the world’s largest college town, Massachusetts. Working with our former executive director and current government affairs advisor, David Watson, we filed two bills for the new legislative session on Beacon Hill. The first was a Bike Lane Protection Bill, which makes it illegal for motorists to block established bike lanes. Every cyclist has experienced frustration with those hard-won bike lanes being used for everything from deliveries to taxi lines to double-parking spaces.

The second piece of legislation is a Vulnerable Road Users Bill, which brings together pedestrians, cyclists, road workers, tow truck operators, police officers, and emergency personnel as vulnerable road users and defines what is a safe-passing distance. This is landmark legislation that makes our entire state safer.

We had 42 lawmakers sign on as sponsors or co-sponsors for each of these bills. This represents 25 percent of the State Senate and 21 percent of the State House. This support will not go unnoticed. For too long, bicyclists have been simply tolerated by the transportation system. This legislation, if passed, will show that the Bay State – which has so much to gain by integrating pedestrians and cyclists into its streetscape – is not looking to just tolerate bicyclists but also to welcome and protect them as an important part of the transportation grid.

These lawmakers recognize that for the Bay State to be a leader in transportation, the bicycle is an important part of the streetscape, roadways, and transportation grid.

In the Senate

Sponsoring Both Bills
Michael Barrett, Third Middlesex
William Brownsberger, Second Suffolk and Middlesex
Sonia Chang-Diaz, Second Suffolk
Sal DiDomenico, Middlex and Suffolk
Kenneth Donnelly, Fourth Middlesex
James Eldridge, Middlesex and Worcester
Brian Joyce, Norfolk, Bristol, and Plymouth
Jason Lewis, Fifth Middlesex
Joan Lovely, Second Essex

Sponsoring Vulnerable Road Users Bill
Anne Gobi, Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Middlesex

In the House

Sponsoring Both Bills
Ruth Balser, 12th Middlesex
Gailanne Cariddi, 1st Berkshire
Marjorie Decker, 25th Middlesex
Daniel Donahue, 16th Worcester
Shawn Dooley, 9th Norfolk
Carolyn Dykema, 8th Middlesex
Sean Garballey, 23rd Middlesex
Kenneth Gordon, 21st Middlesex
Jonathan Hecht, 29th Middlesex
Kay Khan, 11th Middlesex
Peter Kocot, 1st Hampshire
Jay Livingstone, 8th Suffolk
Timothy Madden, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket
Elizabeth Poirier, 14th Bristol
Denise Provost, 27th Middlesex
Angelo Puppolo, 12th Hampden
David Rogers, 24th Middlesex
Jeffrey Roy, 10th Norfolk
Paul Schmid, 8th Bristol
Frank Smizik, 15th Norfolk
Aaron Vega, 5th Hampden
John Velis, 4th Hampden
Chris Walsh, 6th Middlesex

Sponsoring Vulnerable Road Users Bill
Daniel Cullinane, 12th Suffolk
Josh Cutler, 6th Plymouth
Carole Fiola, 6th Bristol
Leonard Mirra, 2nd Essex

Sponsoring Bike Lane Bill
Christine Barber, 34th Middlesex
Danielle Gregoire, 4th Middlesex
Bradford Hill, 4th Essex
Michael Moran, 18th Suffolk
Paul Tucker, 7th Essex

Yours Truly,
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Richard Fries
Executive Director, MassBike

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States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue

If your state is not listed here, you should assume a parent cannot waive a minor’s right to sue in your state.

State

By Statute

Restrictions

Alaska

Alaska: Sec. 09.65.292

Sec. 05.45.120 does not allow using a release by ski areas for ski injuries

Arizona

ARS § 12-553

Limited to Equine Activities

Colorado

C.R.S. §§13-22-107

 

Florida

Florida Statute § 744.301 (3)

Florida statute that allows a parent to release a minor’s right to sue

Virginia

Chapter 62.  Equine Activity Liability § 3.2-6202.  Liability limited; liability actions prohibited

Allows a parent to sign a release for a minor for equine activities

Utah

78B-4-203.  Limitations on Liability for Equine and Livestock Activities

Limited to Equine Activities
(b) providing a document or release for the participant, or the participant’s legal guardian if the participant is a minor, to sign.

 

By Case Law

 

California

Hohe v. San Diego Unified Sch. Dist., 224 Cal.App.3d 1559, 274 Cal.Rptr. 647 (1990)

 

Florida

Global Travel Marketing, Inc v. Shea, 2005 Fla. LEXIS 1454

Allows a release signed by a parent to require arbitration of the minor’s claims

Florida

Gonzalez v. City of Coral Gables, 871 So.2d 1067, 29 Fla. L. Weekly D1147

Release can be used for volunteer activities and by government entities

Massachusetts

Sharon v. City of Newton, 437 Mass. 99; 769 N.E.2d 738; 2002 Mass. LEXIS 384

 

Minnesota

Moore vs. Minnesota Baseball Instructional School, 2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 299

 

North Dakota

McPhail v. Bismarck Park District, 2003 ND 4; 655 N.W.2d 411; 2003 N.D. LEXIS 3

 

Ohio

Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc., 696 N.E.2d 201, 82 Ohio St.3d 367 (1998)

 

Wisconsin

Osborn v. Cascade Mountain, Inc., 655 N.W.2d 546, 259 Wis. 2d 481, 2002 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1216, 2003 WI App 1

However the decision in Atkins v. Swimwest Family Fitness Center, 2005 WI 4; 2005 Wisc. LEXIS 2 may void all releases in the state

Maryland

BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen, 435 Md. 714; 80 A.3d 345; 2013 Md. LEXIS 897

Maryland top court allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue. Release was not fantastic, but good enough.

 

On the Edge, but not enough to really rely on

 

North Carolina

Kelly v. United States of America, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89741
Kelly , v. United States of America, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135289

Ruling is by the Federal District Court and only a preliminary motion
And final decision dismissing the case

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Zip line put away for the season still found and plaintiff gets injured on rigged system.

4H Camp not liable for group of people who rig a zip line and borrow a ladder to get to the platform.

(Permanent URL)

Herberchuk v. Essex County 4H Club Camp, Inc. et al., 1999 Mass. Super. LEXIS 99

Date of the Decision: 1999

Plaintiff: Alicia Herberchuk

Defendant: Essex County 4H Club Camp, Inc and Teleglobe Communications, Inc.

Plaintiff Claims: negligence

Defendant Defenses: no duty owed

Holding: for the defendants

The plaintiff attended an event with other employees at a 4H camp that had been rented for the event. The event was not sponsored by the defendant employer Teleglobe but was an event for employees of Teleglobe.

The camp had a zip wire which had been closed for the season. The ladder leading up to the platform for the launch of the zip line had been removed and there was no pulley, harness or other equipment at the zip wire. The plaintiff had noticed upon her arrival that there was no ladder leading up to the platform.

A ladder had been found, and other people at the event were using the zip wire by holding on to a green nylon rope to ride down the wire. The plaintiff decided she wanted to ride the wire. She climbed up the ladder. The ladder that had been found did not reach the platform, and the plaintiff had to pull herself up to the platform.

The plaintiff grabbed the nylon roped and leaped off the platform where she fell injuring herself. The plaintiff sued the 4H camp and her employer. The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court. The plaintiff appealed.

Summary of the case

The first issue presented was the duty of the landowner, the 4H camp to the attendees.

A property owner has a duty to maintain its property “in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk.” A defendant is not required to “supply a place of maximum safety, but only one, which would be safe to a person who exercises such minimum care as the circumstances reasonably indicate.” “A landowner has no duty to protect lawful visitors on his property from risks that would be obvious to persons of average intelligence.”

The court took notice that the camp had removed all the equipment to operate the zip wire, including the ladder. The plaintiff still decided to use the zip wire knowing this. The 4H camp did not have a duty to warn the plaintiff of the dangers of the zip wire because the dangers were obvious with no safety equipment or instruction on how to use it. “There is no duty to warn of dangers obvious to persons of average intelligence.”

The appellate court agreed with the trial court and dismissed the claims against the landowner, the 4H camp.

The next claim was against the employer of the plaintiff. This claim was thrown out even faster. The event was not sponsored by Teleglobe; the money for the event came from employees through a raffle. Finally, the plaintiff was not required to attend the event as part of her employment and was not paid to be there.

So Now What?

As we all know, if there is a way to have more fun or get injured humans can find it and do it.  About the only thing you could do in this case is taking the platform down or hiding all ladders at the camp.

As a landowner always understand your obligations to people on your land, whether they pay to be there or not.

If your employees want to do something like this, understand your corporate responsibilities in assisting or not assisting in the event.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Copyright 2014 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

 

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

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Herberchuk v. Essex County 4H Club Camp, Inc. et al., 1999 Mass. Super. LEXIS 99

Herberchuk v. Essex County 4H Club Camp, Inc. et al., 1999 Mass. Super. LEXIS 99

Alicia Herberchuk v. Essex County 4H Club Camp, Inc. et al.

96-4863

SUPERIOR COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS, AT MIDDLESEX

1999 Mass. Super. LEXIS 99

March 11, 1999, Decided

JUDGES: [*1] Raymond J. Brassard, Justice of the Superior Court.

OPINION BY: RAYMOND J. BRASSARD

OPINION

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff, Alicia Herberchuk (“Ms. Herberchuk”), brought this action for recovery of damages for injuries sustained while on land owned by defendant, Essex County 4H Club Camp, Inc. (“4H”), while attending an outing accompanied by co-workers employed by defendant, Teleglobe Communications, Inc. (“Teleglobe”). The plaintiff alleges that the injuries were caused by the negligence of the defendants and that there are genuine issues of material fact which preclude the entry of summary judgment on the issue of liability. For the reasons set forth below, defendants’ motions for summary judgment are ALLOWED.

BACKGROUND

Viewing the facts available at this summary judgment stage in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Ms. Herberchuk, the undisputed facts are as follows.

On August 28, 1993, Ms. Herberchuk attended an employee outing at a campground owned by 4-H. The campground had been rented through a third party under the name of Teleglobe by certain of its employees, but not by Teleglobe itself. At the cookout [*2] Ms. Herberchuk observed other guests using an apparatus known as a zipwire. The zipwire was used by children who attended the 4H’s camp during the summer months. Using the zipwire involved climbing up a ladder which reached to a platform mounted on a tree, and then leaving the platform to traverse the entire length of the wire. Proper use of the zipwire required a safety helmet, a safety harness, a drag line, and several people assisting the rider. The zipwire also included an 8 inch square 2,000 pound-test pulley to which the safety harness was attached. At the end of the camping season all removable equipment, including the safety equipment, was required to be removed from the zipwire, leaving only the cable and the platform.

On the date in question, a ladder found on or near the campground was propped against the tree upon which the platform was mounted by unidentified parties allowing guests to access the zipwire. Hanging from the zipwire was a nylon rope described as green in color which other guests were using to slide down the wire. No rules or instructions on how to use the zipwire were posted on or near the apparatus on the day in question. After watching several other [*3] people use the zipwire, Ms. Herberchuk decided she wanted to use the apparatus. In order to reach the zipwire, the plaintiff climbed the ladder. Although the ladder did not reach the platform at the end of the wire, Ms. Herberchuk was able to reach the platform by pulling herself up by her hands. Once on the platform Ms. Herberchuk wrapped the rope around her hands as she had seen others do and pushed herself off. Instead of traveling down the wire, however, Ms. Herberchuk fell to the ground sustaining serious injuries, including two elbow fractures and a fractured jaw. As result of these events Ms. Herberchuk commenced this lawsuit against 4H and Teleglobe. Both 4H and Teleglobe have moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

DISCUSSION

[HN1] Summary judgment shall be granted where there are no issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to as a matter of law. Kourouvacilis v. General Motors Corp., 410 Mass. 706, 716, 575 N.E.2d 734 (1991); Cassesso v. Comm’r of Correction, 390 Mass. 419, 422, 456 N.E.2d 1123 (1983); Community Nat’l Bank v. Dawes, 369 Mass. 550, 553, 340 N.E.2d 877 (1976); Mass.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the burden of affirmatively demonstrating the [*4] absence of a triable issue and that, therefore, she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pederson v. Time, Inc., 404 Mass. 14, 17, 532 N.E.2d 1211 (1989). If the moving party establishes the absence of a triable issue, in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must respond and allege facts which would establish the existence of disputed material facts. Id.

[HN2] A judge, when ruling on a motion for summary judgment must consider “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, in determining whether summary judgment is appropriate.” Flesner v. Technical Communications Corporation et al., 410 Mass. 805, 807, 575 N.E.2d 1107 (1991). Where no genuine issue of material fact exists, “the judge must ask himself not whether he thinks the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented.” Id. citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

1. The Claim Against 4-H.

[HN3] A property owner has a duty to maintain its property [*5] “in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk.” Mounsey v. Ellard, 363 Mass. 693, 708, 297 N.E.2d 43 (1973). A defendant is not required to “supply a place of maximum safety, but only one which would be safe to a person who exercises such minimum care as the circumstances reasonably indicate.” Toubiana v. Priestly, 402 Mass. 84, 88, 520 N.E.2d 1307 (1988). “A landowner has no duty to protect lawful visitors on his property from risks that would be obvious to persons of average intelligence.” Id. at 89.

In the present case, Ms. Herberchuk claims there are genuine issues of fact concerning the condition in which the zipwire was kept, as well as, what actions 4-H took to prevent unauthorized use of the apparatus. The evidence on the record, for the purposes of this motion, includes affidavits from both Ms. Herberchuk and Mr. Charles G. Ingersoll, a member of the 4-H Board of Trustees, as well as exhibits, including photographs of the area immediately before the accident.

In his affidavit, Mr. Ingersoll states that, while not having [*6] a specific memory of doing so the summer during which Ms. Herberchuk was injured, it was his practice to remove and put away for the winter all those removable parts and safety equipment associated with the zipwire at the end of each camping season (before the outing). Mr. Ingersol also stated that the ladder used by the plaintiff to get to the platform was not one of those presently used by the camp and that the pulley was not on the line the day of the outing. Ms. Herberchuk admitted in her affidavit that when she first arrived at the outing there was no ladder attached to the tree and that when she attempted to make her way to the platform she had to pull herself up because the wooden ladder placed there did not reach the platform. Ms. Herberchuk stated further that she did not know if the pulley was attached to the wire or where the strap had come from.

[HN4] “The question to be decided is whether the jury reasonably could have concluded that, in view of all the circumstances, an ordinarily prudent person in the defendant’s position would have taken steps, not taken by the defendant, to prevent the accident that occurred.” Id. at 89. In this case the evidence shows that 4-H [*7] had removed both the ladder and the safety equipment used with the zipwire during the camping season. Upon arriving at the outing Ms. Herberchuk saw no ladder allowing entry to the platform rendering the zipwire inaccessible, it being twenty feet above the ground. Ms. Herberchuk chose to use the zipwire without the benefit of safety equipment or instructions on the use of the device. Ms. Herberchuk also admitted in her deposition that she knew there was a chance she could be injured but decided to use the apparatus. Further, 4-H did not have a duty to warn Ms. Herberchuk of the obvious dangers involved with using the zipwire without safety equipment or instruction. “There is no duty to warn of dangers obvious to persons of average intelligence.” Thorson v. Mandell, 402 Mass. 744, 749, 525 N.E.2d 375 (1988). On this evidence, a fair minded jury could not return a verdict for the plaintiff.

2. The Claim Against Teleglobe.

[HN5] “Before liability for negligence can be imposed there must first be a legal duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, and a breach of that duty proximately resulting in the injury.” Davis v. Westwood Group, 420 Mass. 739, 743, 652 N.E.2d 567 (1995). [*8] Ms. Herberchuk urges that Teleglobe played a part in the organization and funding of the outing at which the plaintiff was injured. The evidence, however, is to the contrary. First, the outing was organized by Teleglobe employees because the company no longer sponsored such events. Second, the money to pay for the outing was raised by a group of employees independent of Teleglobe through the use of a raffle. Finally, Ms. Herberchuk’s attendance was not required by her employment and she received no compensation for attending. On this evidence a reasonable jury could not find that Teleglobe owed any duty to Ms. Herberchuk.

ORDER

For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that defendants’, 4-H and Teleglobe, motions for summary judgment are ALLOWED.

Raymond J, Brassard

Justice of the Superior Court

Dated: March 11, 1999


Industry standards are proof of gross negligence and keep defendant in lawsuit even with good release

If the industry says you should and calls it a standard you better

Lautieri v. Bae, 17 Mass. L. Rep. 4; 2003 Mass. Super. LEXIS 290 (Mass. Sup 2003)

Plaintiff: Derek A. Lautieri

Defendant: Jorun G. Bae

Third Party Defendants: defendants USA Triathlon, Inc., William Fiske d/b/a Fiske Independent Race Management, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metrowest, Inc.

Plaintiff Claims: negligence and court added gross negligence

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: Holding release released defendants who could not be held to gross negligence.

This decision is from a trial court in Massachusetts. It has limited value in Massachusetts and other states.

If you have read many of these articles, you understand that releases do not bar claims for gross negligence. In this case, the release did not bar the claim for gross negligence, even when the plaintiff did not plead gross negligence.

This is a car/bike accident case during a triathlon. The plaintiff was cycling in a triathlon with several other cyclists. The defendant Bae, driver pulled out in front of the cyclists resulting in a collision. The course was not closed to traffic.

The defendant car driver brought in as third party defendants the race organizer, William Fiske d/b/a Fiske Independent Race Management (Fiske), the race charity Boys and Girls Clubs of Metrowest, Inc. (BGC) and the triathlon association sanctioning body USA Triathlon, Inc., (USTA).

The third party defendants were brought in for “contribution.” Contribution is defined in Massachusetts as:

Where two or more persons become jointly liable in tort for the same injury to person or property, there shall be a right of contribution among them.” The Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) has consistently interpreted the language of this statute to mean that an “action for contribution is not barred if, at the time the accident occurred, the party for whom contribution is sought could have been held liable in tort.”

For the defendant, Bae to enable to enforce contribution against the third party defendants she must show that the third party defendants could be held liable at trial in tort. Any defenses available to the third party defendants against the original plaintiff will also be a defense to the contribution claim of the defendant Bae.

Therefore, in order for Bae to be able to enforce a right of contribution against any of the third-party defendants, she must be able to show that the particular third-party defendant could have been found tortiously liable to the plaintiff at the time the accident occurred.

Fiske was the person who put the triathlon together. Even though Fiske was operating as Fiske Independent Race Management, the court indicated that Fiske was not a corporation or company (LLC). USTA sanctioned the race, including providing liability insurance and standards, according to the court, on how the race should be run.

The defendant Bae argued that the third party defendants should be liable for failing to “a safe layout for the race course, failure to provide warning signs and directions, and failure to place volunteers and/or police personnel at the intersection where the incident occurred.”

The court determined that USTA was:

…the governing body of triathlon races and promulgates safety requirements for use by organizers of sanctioned triathlon races.

USTA is the governing body of triathlon races and promulgates safety requirements for use by organizers of sanctioned triathlon races.

In that position, USTA created regulations for running triathlons which the court quoted:

2. It is highly recommended to close the [bike race] road to traffic. If not possible, cone bike lanes with a minimum width of six feet from vehicles . . . 9. Control stoplights/stop sign intersections, traffic hazards and turnarounds with police and an ample amount of volunteers . . . 12. Use ‘Race in Progress’ or ‘Watch for Cyclists’ signs placed along the course to help warn motorists about conditions . . . 23. All turns, turn-arounds, traffic hazards and intersections must be monitored and marked with signs and volunteers. Any intersections with stop signs or stop lights must be controlled by police or professional traffic personnel.

Fiske did not follow any of the guidelines offered by the USTA.

…it does not appear that Fiske, as Race Director, heeded any of the guidelines described above for the triathlon at issue; rather, he left the intersection at which Lautieri collided with Bae open to traffic, uncontrolled by police or volunteers, unmarked with warnings, and unmonitored.

Summary of the case

The defense raised by the third party defendants was “release.” The plaintiff signed a release to join the USTA and receive a license. The plaintiff also signed an application which contained language similar to that of a release when she entered the race.

Under Massachusetts law, the enforceability of a release is a question (issue) of law to be decided by the court. “Massachusetts law favors the enforcement of releases.”

There can be no doubt . . . that under the law of Massachusetts . . . in the absence of fraud a person may make a valid contract exempting himself from any liability to another which he may in the future incur as a result of his negligence or that of his agents or employees acting on his behalf.” While any doubts about the interpretation of a release must be resolved in the favor of the plaintiff, an unambiguous and comprehensive release will be enforced as drafted.

Nor does the word negligence have to be found in the release. Releases, like all other states, do not bar claims of gross negligence. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant complained of any gross negligence. The court, however, stated that even though not pled, gross negligence could be found later against Fiske. If that was the case, then the releases signed by the plaintiff did not bar the claim against Fiske. “While these waivers are sufficient to release Fiske from all liability for harm caused by his own negligence, they do not release him from his own gross negligence.” The court found that the actions of Fiske could rise to the level of gross negligence.

The basis of that finding was Fiske did not follow the guidelines or regulations of the governing body, the USTA in running the race. “As this definition is necessarily vague, it is important to note that courts have found that “industry standards may be some evidence of negligence.”

To some extent, the court must have thought that Fiske’s failure to follow the standards of the USTA was very egregious to raise the issue of gross negligence in the case.

The court quoted the regulations cited above as evidence that what Fiske did when ignoring the industry standards was sufficient to void the release because it raised the possibility that Fiske was grossly negligent.

…it does not appear that Fiske, as Race Director, heeded any of the guidelines described above for the triathlon at issue; rather, he left the intersection at which Lautieri collided with Bae open to traffic, uncontrolled by police or volunteers, unmarked with warnings, and unmonitored.

The court further defined negligence and gross negligence under Massachusetts law.

Negligence, without qualification and in its ordinary sense, is the failure of a responsible person, either by omission or by action, to exercise that degree of care, vigilance and forethought which, in the discharge of the duty then resting on him, the person of ordinary caution and prudence ought to exercise under the particular circumstances. It is a want of diligence commensurate with the requirement of the duty at the moment imposed by the law.

Gross negligence is substantially and appreciably higher in magnitude than ordinary negligence. It is materially more want of care than constitutes simple inadvertence. It is an act or omission respecting legal duty of an aggravated character as distinguished from a mere failure to exercise ordinary care. It is very great negligence, or the absence of slight diligence, or the want of even scant care. It amounts to indifference to present legal duty and to utter forgetfulness of legal obligations so far as other persons may be affected. It is a heedless and palpable violation of legal duty respecting the rights of others. The element of culpability which characterizes all negligence is in gross negligence magnified to a high degree as compared with that present in ordinary negligence. Gross negligence is a manifestly smaller amount of watchfulness and circumspection than the circumstances require of a person of ordinary prudence . . . It falls short of being such reckless disregard of probable consequences as is equivalent to a wilful and intentional wrong. Ordinary and gross negligence differ in degree of inattention, while both differ in kind from wilful and intentional conduct which is or ought to be known to have a tendency to injure.”

The court’s justification for not letting Fiske out of the case and for allowing the possibility of a claim for gross negligence was interesting.

While Bae has specifically pled negligence, and not gross negligence, this Court has considered the summary judgment motion as if a claim for gross negligence against the third-party defendants has been made.

Accordingly, because gross negligence may be considered an alternative theory of a standard negligence claim, Bae should be permitted to proceed with her claim of gross negligence against the third-party defendants.

The court then looked at the allegations against the USTA.

In order for Lautieri to establish that USTA owed him a duty of care at the time the accident occurred, Lautieri would have to establish that such a duty has a “source existing in social values and customs,” or that USTA voluntarily, or for consideration, assumed a duty of care to Lautieri. This is a burden that Lautieri–or, more appropriately, Bae, standing in Lautieri’s shoes–cannot meet.

There was no evidence that showed USTA participated or was supposed to participate in the planning, operation, supervision or running of the race. USTA did not even have a representative of USTA attend the race. Consequently, because there was no duty and USTA created no duty to the plaintiff the release barred the claims of the third party defendant.

The court’s discussion of the Boys and Girls Club was shorter.

A similar finding regarding the B&G Clubs is mandated. While there is evidence that the B&G Clubs provided volunteers for the triathlon, there is no evidence to support a claim of gross negligence against the B&G Clubs or any of its members.

USTA and the Boys and Girls Club were dismissed from the lawsuit.

So Now What?

The “release” or as identified by the court, application, was extremely weak. If the release had identified the course as being an open course, not closed to cars, this might have changed the outcome of the case for Fiske. No matter, the document was too weak not to create problems rather than resolve them in this case.

However, even if the release was stronger, it might not have gotten Fiske out of the case because of the court raised allegations of gross negligence. The USTA created regulations for running a race. By requesting and receiving sanctioning for the race, Fiske knowingly or unknowingly, became burdened or bound by those regulations. The court called them standards, regulations and guidelines throughout the decision, but the simple fact is they were a noose around the third party defendant’s neck.

You cannot look at your industry and not understand the standard of care in the industry or not find and follow the guidelines the industry is creating.

These “regulations” are fairly simple and appear to be commons sense. However, they substantially increase the cost of running an event. Closing a street requires government paperwork, government employees and usually help from law enforcement. All significantly increase the cost of running the event.

However, the regulations more importantly are proof that if an industry association creates regulations, standards, guidelines or rules, they are the standard of care against which members of the same industry will be judged in court.

For more articles on how standards created by an association are used to harm association members see:

ACA Standards are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp

Expert Witness Report: ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp

Plaintiff uses standards of ACCT to cost defendant $4.7 million

Trade Association Standards sink a Summer Camp when plaintiff uses them to prove Camp was negligent

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Massachusetts Ski Safety Act

Massachusetts Ski Safety Act

ANNOTATED LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS

PART I ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

TITLE XX PUBLIC SAFETY AND GOOD ORDER

Chapter 143 Inspection and Regulation of, and Licenses for, Buildings, Elevators and Cinematographs

GO TO MASSACHUSETTS CODE ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

ALM GL ch. 143, § 71I (2012)

§ 71I. Recreational Tramways — Definitions.

As used in sections seventy-one H to seventy-one S, inclusive, the following words shall, unless the context otherwise requires, have the following meanings:

“Recreational tramway”, a device used to transport passengers uphill on skis, or in cars on tracks or suspended in the air, by the use of steel cables, chains or belts or by ropes, and usually supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans. The term recreational tramway shall include the following:

(1) Two-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in two open or enclosed cars attached to, and suspended from, a moving wire rope, or attached to a moving wire rope and supported on a standing wire rope, or similar devices.

(2) Multi-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in several open or enclosed cars attached to, and suspended from, a moving wire rope, or attached to a moving wire rope and supported on a standing wire rope, or similar devices.

(3) Skimobile, a device in which a passenger car running on steel or wooden tracks is attached to and pulled by a steel cable, or similar devices.

(4) Chair lift, a type of transportation on which passengers are carried on chairs suspended in the air and attached to a moving cable, chain or link belt supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans, or similar devices.

(5) J bar, T bar or platter pull, so-called, and similar types of devices, means of transportation which pull skiers riding on skis by means of an attachment to a main overhead cable supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans.

(6) Rope tow, a type of transportation which pulls the skiers riding on skis as the skiers grasp the rope manually, or similar devices.

“Operator”, a person, including the commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof, who owns or controls the operation of a recreational tramway.

“Board”, the recreational tramway board.

“Skier”, any person utilizing the ski area under control of a ski area operator for the purpose of skiing, whether or not that person is a passenger on a recreational tramway, including riders during a non-skiing season.

“Ski area”, all of the slopes and trails under the control of the ski area operator, including cross-country ski areas, slopes and trails, and any recreational tramway in operation on any such slopes or trails administered or operated as a single enterprise but shall not include base lodges, motor vehicle parking lots and other portions of ski areas used by skiers when not actually engaged in the sport of skiing.

“Ski area operator”, the owner or operator of a ski area, including an agency of the commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof, or the employees, agents, officers or delegated representatives of such owner or operator, including the owner or operator of a cross-country ski area, slope or trail, and of any recreational tramway in operation on any such slope or trail administered or operated as a single enterprise.

“Ski slope or trail”, an area designed by the person or organization having operational responsibility for the ski area as herein defined, including a cross-country ski area, for use by the public in furtherance of the sport of skiing, meaning such designation as is set forth on a trail map or as otherwise designated by a sign indicating to the skiing public the intent that the area be used by skiers for purpose of participating in the sport.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, §§ 1, 2; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The 1978 amendment, in the first sentence, extended the applicability of definitions through § 71S, and added the definitions of “Skier,” “Ski area,” “Ski area operator,” and “Ski slope or trail.”

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Reviews

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

Language of ALM GL c 143, § 71I limits the definition of skier to any person utilizing a ski area for the purpose of skiing, and shows that the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act (Act), ALM GL c 143, §§ 71N, 71O, was not intended to include a non-skiing sport like snow tubing; the Act did not relieve a ski operator from a claim for injuries from a snow tubing accident, and the ski operator’s summary judgment motion was denied. Burden v. Amesbury Sports Park, Inc. (2003, Super Ct) 16 Mass L Rep 744, 2003 Mass Super LEXIS 276.

Snowboarders falls within the definition of skiers. Rich v. Tamarack Ski Corp. (2008) 24 Mass L Rep 448, 2008 Mass. Super. LEXIS 324.

Because snowboarders were included within the definition of “skiers” found in ALM GL c 143, § 71I, under ALM GL c 143, § 71O, a ski area operator and an instructor were not liable to a snowboarder who was injured when she ran into the instructor who was standing at the side of a ski hill. Rich v. Tamarack Ski Corp. (2008) 24 Mass L Rep 448, 2008 Mass. Super. LEXIS 324.

Because a racing skier’s collision with a lift tower stanchion was off the race course and off the trail–as defined in ALM GL c 143, § 71I– ALM GL c 143, § 71O, placed the duty to avoid collisions on the skier alone. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

§ 71J. Recreational Tramways — Board to Adopt Rules and Regulations for Construction, Maintenance; Licensing of Inspectors.

After a hearing, the board shall adopt, and may from time to time amend or revoke, rules and regulations for the construction, operation and maintenance of recreational tramways and for the inspection, licensing and certification of inspectors thereof. The board shall in like manner adopt, and from time to time amend or revoke, rules and regulations for a system of signs to be used by a ski area operator in order to promote the safety of skiers. Such system shall incorporate standards in general use in the skiing industry to evaluate the difficulty of slopes and trails and to adequately alert skiers to the known danger of any slope or trail or the ski area. The attorney general shall assist the board in framing such rules and regulations.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, § 3; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The 1978 amendment, added the second and third sentences, relative to sign systems.

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board. 526 CMR 1.01 through 3.04; , 4.00 (1.1-1.8), 5.00 (2.1-2.6), 6.00 (3.1-3.6), 7.00 (4.1, 4.2), 8.01, 8.02.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71K. Recreational Tramways — to Be Licensed.

No recreational tramway shall be operated unless a license for such operation has been issued by the board. Such license shall be issued for a term of not longer than one year, upon application therefor on a form furnished by the board, and upon a determination by the board that the recreational tramway conforms to the rules and regulations of the board. In making such determination the board may rely upon the report of an inspector certified by it in accordance with its rules and regulations.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

51 Am Jur 2d, Licenses and Permits §§ 10, 11, 64-68, 74, 76.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71M. Recreational Tramways — Appeals to Superior Court from Orders of Board.

Any operator who is aggrieved by any order of the board may appeal therefrom to the superior court. No such appeal shall suspend the operation of the order made by the board; provided that the superior court may suspend the order of the board pending the determination of such appeal whenever, in the opinion of the court, justice may require such suspension. The superior court shall hear such appeal at the earliest convenient day and shall enter such decree as justice may require.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

18C Am Jur Pl & Pr Forms (Rev), Occupations, Trades, and Professions, Forms 20, 21.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71N. Recreational Tramways — Posting of Signs and Notices by Ski Area Operator.

A ski area operator shall:

(1) whenever maintenance or snow-making equipment is being employed on any ski slope or trail open to the public, conspicuously place or cause to be placed, notice at or near the top of any ski slope or trail being maintained that such equipment is being so employed, and shall conspicuously indicate the location of any such equipment in a manner to afford skiers reasonable notice of the proximity of such equipment;

(2) mark and identify all trail maintenance and emergency vehicles, including snowmobiles, and furnish such vehicles with flashing or rotating lights, which shall be operated during the time that said vehicles are in operation within the ski area;

(3) with respect to the emergency use of vehicles within the ski area, including but not limited to uses for purposes of removing injured or stranded skiers, or performing emergency maintenance or repair work to slopes, trails or tramway equipment, not be required to post such signs as is required by clause (1), but shall be required to maintain such lighting equipment required by clause (2);

(4) mark the location of any hydrants used in snow-making operations and located within or upon a slope or trail;

(5) conspicuously place within the ski area, in such form, size and location as the board may require, and on the back of any lift ticket issued notice, in plain language, of the statute of limitations and notice period established in section seventy-one P; and

(6) maintain a sign system on all buildings, recreational tramways, ski trails and slopes in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the board and shall be responsible for the maintenance and operation of ski areas under its control in a reasonably safe condition or manner; provided, however, that ski area operators shall not be liable for damages to persons or property, while skiing, which arise out of the risks inherent in the sport of skiing.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

Acts 1978, Ch. 455, § 4, replaced former §§ 71N and 71O with sections 71N through 71S; the former provisions of §§ 71N and 71O are now contained in §§ 71R and 71S, respectively. Section 5 of the inserting act provides as follows:

Section 5. The provisions of clause (5) of section seventy-one N of chapter one hundred and forty-three of the General Laws, inserted by section three of this act, relative to the printing on lift tickets of a notice of the statute of limitations, shall not apply to a ski area operator who has a supply of such tickets already printed for the nineteen hundred and seventy-eight and nineteen hundred and seventy-nine skiing season, insofar as he may exhaust such supply. Such ski area operator shall, however, comply with said notice requirements beginning with the nineteen hundred and seventy-nine and nineteen hundred and eighty skiing season.

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

57A Am Jur 2d, Negligence § 32.

15 Am Jur Trials 147, Skiing Accident Litigation.

20 Am Jur Proof of Facts 2d 1, Liability for Skiing Accident.

Law Reviews

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

One year limitation period in GL c 143 § 71P is not applicable only to action for violation of duty prescribed by GL c 143 § 71N but applies to all personal injury actions brought by skiers against ski area operator arising out of skiing injuries. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

ALM GL c 143 § 71O does not exempt ski area operator from liability for injuries caused by its agent. Tilley v. Brodie Mountain Ski Area, Inc. (1992) 412 Mass 1009, 591 NE2d 202, 1992 Mass LEXIS 273.

Summary judgment in favor of ski area operator was appropriate where plaintiff was skier, who slipped while approaching ski lift, since ALM GL c 143 § 71N specifically excludes liability for injury to skier arising out of risks inherent in sport of skiing, and a skier accepts, as a matter of law, risk that he or she might be injured in manner that falls within statutorily specified risks as well as risks contemplated by statutory scheme. Fetzner v. Jiminy Peak, The Mountain Resort (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 55, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 30.

Ski area operator was not liable for injuries sustained by skier who, after skiing over clumps of ice on trail, lost control and skied off trail edge into woods, since injuries arose out of risks inherent in skiing, and skier failed to control speed and direction. Spinale v. Pam F., Inc. (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 140, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 66.

Massachusetts Ski Safety Act (Act), ALM GL c 143, §§ 71N, 71O, was not intended to include a non-skiing sport like snow tubing; the Act did not relieve a ski operator from a claim for injuries from a snow tubing accident, and the ski operator’s summary judgment motion was denied. Burden v. Amesbury Sports Park, Inc. (2003, Super Ct) 16 Mass L Rep 744, 2003 Mass Super LEXIS 276.

Although a ski area operator had a general duty to operate the ski areas under its control in a reasonably safe manner, pursuant to ALM GL c 143, § 71N(6), because a racing skier’s collision with a lift tower stanchion was off the race course and off the trail, ALM GL c 143, § 71O, placed the duty to avoid collisions on the skier alone. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

In a negligence action brought by an inexperienced skier who was seriously injured when she struck a snow gun while skiing on a low intermediate trail, even though the ski area operator’s trail markings did not violate the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, ALM GL c 143, § 71N, or contribute to the accident and even though the skier had an obligation under ALM GL c 143, § 71O to avoid collisions with an object so long as the object was not improperly marked, the ski area operator was not entitled to summary judgment on all the negligence claims because there were factual disputes remaining as to whether the snow gun was adequately marked and padded. Peresypa v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84417.

Reasonable jury could find that ski area operator breached its general duty under ALM GL c 143 § 71N(6), even though statute provides exception protecting operators from “damages…which arise out of risks inherent in sport of skiing,” where examples of inherent risks enumerated by statute include “variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow, ice conditions or bare spots,” because presence of snow gun in middle of ski trail does not appear to fall into category of inherent risk. Eipp v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (2001) 154 F Supp 2d 110, 2001 US Dist LEXIS 11229.

§ 71O. Recreational Tramways — Conduct, Responsibilities, and Duties of Skiers.

No skier shall embark or disembark upon a recreational tramway except at a designated location and during designated hours of operation, throw or expel any object from any recreational tramway while riding thereon, act in any manner while riding on a recreational tramway that may interfere with its proper or safe operation, engage in any type of conduct which may injure any person, or place any object in the uphill ski track which may cause another to fall while traveling uphill on a ski lift, or cross the uphill track of a recreational tramway except at designated locations. A skier shall maintain control of his speed and course at all times, and shall stay clear of any snow-grooming equipment, any vehicle, towers, poles, or other equipment.

A skier who boards a recreational tramway shall be presumed to have sufficient abilities to use the same, and shall follow any written or oral instruction given regarding its use and no skier shall embark on a recreational tramway without authority of the operator. A skier skiing down hill shall have the duty to avoid any collision with any other skier, person or object on the hill below him, and, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the responsibility for collisions by any skier with any other skier or person shall be solely that of the skier or person involved and not that of the operator, and the responsibility for the collision with any obstruction, man-made or otherwise, shall be solely that of the skier and not that of the operator, provided that such obstruction is properly marked pursuant to the regulations promulgated by the board. No skier shall ski on any ski slope or trail or portion thereof which has been designated closed, nor ski on other than an identified trail, slope or ski area. Any person skiing on other than an open slope or trail within the ski area shall be responsible for any injuries resulting from his action. A skier shall be presumed to know the range of his own ability to ski on any slope, trail or area. A skier shall be presumed to know of the existence of certain unavoidable risks inherent in the sport of skiing, which shall include, but not be limited to, variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow, ice conditions or bare spots, and shall assume the risk of injury or loss caused by such inherent risks. A skier shall, prior to his entrance onto the slope or trail, other than one designated for cross-country skiing, or embarking on any recreational tramway, have attached on his skis, a strap or other device for the purpose of restraining or preventing a runaway ski. A ski area operator who finds a person in violation of this section, may issue an oral warning to that individual. A person who fails to heed the warning issued by such ski area operator shall forfeit his recreational tramway ticket and recreational tramway use privileges and may be refused issuance of another such ticket to the recreational tramway.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4; 1987, 287.

NOTES: Editorial Note

Acts 1978, Ch. 455, § 4, replaced former §§ 71N and 71Owith §§ 71N through 71S; the former provisions of §§ 71N and 71Oare now contained in §§ 71R and 71S, respectively.

The 1987 amendment, added the fifth and sixth sentences of the second paragraph, relating to the areas of knowledge presumed to be possessed by skiers.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations, 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

57A Am Jur 2d, Negligence §§ 258 et seq., 272 et seq.

15 Am Jur Trials 147, Skiing Accident Litigation.

Law Reviews

Dahlstrom, From Recreational Skiing to Criminally Negligent Homicide: A Comparison of United States’ Ski Laws in the Wake of People v. Hall.30 NE J on Crim & Civ Con 209 (Summer, 2004)

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

ALM GL c 71O, insulating ski area operator from liability for collisions between skiers, did not apply where plaintiff/skier was struck from behind by ski patrol member. Tilley v. Brodie Mountain Ski Area, Inc. (1992) 412 Mass 1009, 591 NE2d 202, 1992 Mass LEXIS 273.

ALM GL c 143 § 71O does not exempt ski area operator from liability for injuries caused by its agent. Tilley v. Brodie Mountain Ski Area, Inc. (1992) 412 Mass 1009, 591 NE2d 202, 1992 Mass LEXIS 273.

Summary judgment in favor of ski area operator was appropriate where plaintiff was skier, who slipped while approaching ski lift, since ALM GL c 143 § 71N specifically excludes liability for injury to skier arising out of risks inherent in sport of skiing, and a skier accepts, as a matter of law, risk that he or she might be injured in manner that falls within statutorily specified risks as well as risks contemplated by statutory scheme. Fetzner v. Jiminy Peak, The Mountain Resort (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 55, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 30.

Ski area operator was not liable for injuries sustained by skier who, after skiing over clumps of ice on trail, lost control and skied off trail edge into woods, since injuries arose out of risks inherent in skiing, and skier failed to control speed and direction. Spinale v. Pam F., Inc. (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 140, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 66.

Massachusetts Ski Safety Act (Act), ALM GL c 143, §§ 71N, 71O, was not intended to include a non-skiing sport like snow tubing; the Act did not relieve a ski operator from a claim for injuries from a snow tubing accident, and the ski operator’s summary judgment motion was denied. Burden v. Amesbury Sports Park, Inc. (2003, Super Ct) 16 Mass L Rep 744, 2003 Mass Super LEXIS 276.

Because snowboarders were included within the definition of “skiers” found in ALM GL c 143, § 71I, under ALM GL c 143, § 71O, a ski area operator and an instructor were not liable to a snowboarder who was injured when she ran into the instructor who was standing at the side of a ski hill. Rich v. Tamarack Ski Corp. (2008) 24 Mass L Rep 448, 2008 Mass. Super. LEXIS 324.

Although a ski area operator had a general duty to operate the ski areas under its control in a reasonably safe manner, pursuant to ALM GL c 143, § 71N(6), because a racing skier’s collision with a lift tower stanchion was off the race course and off the trail, ALM GL c 143, § 71O, placed the duty to avoid collisions on the skier alone. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

In applying ALM GL c 143, § 71O, while it may be unreasonable to presume that a child learning to ski knows the range of his own ability to ski on any slope, trail or area, a similar presumption cannot be applied to collegiate competitive skiers. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

In a negligence action brought by an inexperienced skier who was seriously injured when she struck a snow gun while skiing on a low intermediate trail, even though the ski area operator’s trail markings did not violate the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, ALM GL c 143, § 71N, or contribute to the accident and even though the skier had an obligation under ALM GL c 143, § 71O to avoid collisions with an object so long as the object was not improperly marked, the ski area operator was not entitled to summary judgment on all the negligence claims because there were factual disputes remaining as to whether the snow gun was adequately marked and padded. Peresypa v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84417.

§ 71P. Recreational Tramways — Actions Against Ski Area Operators.

For the purpose of sections seventy-one I to seventy-one R, inclusive, in any action brought against a ski area operator based on negligence, it shall be evidence of due care where the conduct of an operator has conformed with the provisions of this chapter or rules or regulations of the board made pursuant to section seventy-one J.

No action shall be maintained against a ski area operator for injury to a skier unless as a condition precedent thereof the person so injured shall, within ninety days of the incident, give to such ski area operator notice, by registered mail, of the name and address of the person injured, the time, place and cause of the injury. Failure to give the foregoing notice shall bar recovery, unless the court finds under the circumstances of the particular case that such ski area operator had actual knowledge of said injury or had reasonable opportunity to learn of said injury within said ninety-day period, or was otherwise not substantially prejudiced by reason of not having been given actual written notice of said injury within said period. In a case where lack of written notice, actual knowledge, or a reasonable opportunity to obtain knowledge of any injury within said ninety-day period is alleged by such ski area operator, the burden of proving substantial prejudice shall be on the operator.

An action to recover for such injury shall be brought within one year of the date of such injury.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4.

NOTES: Cross References

Limitation of actions, generally, ALM GL c 260 § 1 et seq.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

57A Am Jur 2d, Negligence § 9.

58 Am Jur 2d, Notice §§ 1-4, 27.

15 Am Jur Trials 177, Skiing Accident Litigation.

20 Am Jur Proof of Facts 2d 1, Liability for Skiing Accident.

46 Am Jur Proof of Facts 3d 1, Liability of Skier for Collision with Another Skier.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

Word “injury” as used in section does not include death. Grass v. Catamount Dev. Corp. (1983) 390 Mass 551, 457 NE2d 627, 1983 Mass LEXIS 1783.

Legislature did not intend to give ski industry same degree of protection from wrongful death claims as from claims of personal injury. Grass v. Catamount Dev. Corp. (1983) 390 Mass 551, 457 NE2d 627, 1983 Mass LEXIS 1783.

Statute of limitations for action for wrongful death arising out of injury to skier and brought against operator of ski area is GL c 229 § 2, the wrongful death statute, not GL c 143 § 71P. Grass v. Catamount Dev. Corp. (1983) 390 Mass 551, 457 NE2d 627, 1983 Mass LEXIS 1783.

Action by injured skier against ski area operator is governed by one-year limitations of action provision of GL c 143 § 71P, where plaintiff’s theories of recovery were negligence and breach of warranty as well as breach of contract, in renting defective ski equipment. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

One-year limitation period in GL c 143 § 71P is not applicable only to action for violation of duty prescribed by GL c 143 § 71N but applies to all personal injury actions brought by skiers against ski area operator arising out of skiing injuries. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

Legislature concluded that short period for commencement of action against ski area operator was in public interest, because of threat to economic stability of owners and operators of ski areas from personal injury claims. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

One-year limitation period applies to actions brought against ski area operators seeking compensation for injuries sustained while skiing. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

Personal injury action against ski area operators is barred by ALM GL c 143 § 71P, where Massachusetts resident on March 1, 1991 sued New Hampshire ski resort corporation in Massachusetts federal district court for injury suffered at resort on March 2, 1989, because Massachusetts conflict rules call for application of one-year Massachusetts limitations period for actions against ski area operators, instead of New Hampshire’s 2-year statute of limitations. Tidgewell v. Loon Mountain Recreation Corp. (1993, DC Mass) 820 F Supp 630, 1993 US Dist LEXIS 6457.

§ 71Q. Recreational Tramways — Leaving Scene of Skiing Accident.

Any person who is knowingly involved in a skiing accident and who departs from the scene of such accident without leaving personal identification or otherwise clearly identifying himself and obtaining assistance knowing that any other person involved in the accident is in need of medical or other assistance shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4.

NOTES: Cross References

Fine and or imprisonment for leaving scene of accident involving automobiles, ALM GL c 90 § 24.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71R. Recreational Tramways — Penalties for Violations of §§ 71K and 71N or of Regulations Promulgated Under § 71J.

Whoever violates any provision of section 71K, 71N, or any rule or regulation made under the provisions of section 71J, shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars; provided, however, that any person who operates a recreational tramway, after the license therefor has been suspended or revoked, shall be punished by a fine of one hundred dollars for each day of such operation.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, § 4.

NOTES: Editorial Note

This section incorporates the provisions of former § 71N, 25 renumbered and amended by the 1978 act, to include the reference to violations of new § 71N and to increase the fine from $100 to $200 for violations other than operating on a suspended or revoked license, for which the daily fine was increased from $50 to $100.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Review References

§ 71S. Recreational Tramways — Applicability of Other Chapters; Jurisdiction of Public Utilities Department.

Recreational tramways shall not be subject to the provisions of chapters one hundred and fifty-nine, one hundred and sixty, one hundred and sixty-one, and one hundred and sixty-two, and shall not be subject to the jurisdiction or control of the department of telecommunications and energy.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, § 4; 1997, 164, § 114.

NOTES: Editorial Note

This section contains the provisions of former § 71O, as renumbered by the 1978 act without amendment, except for 2 minor corrective changes.

The 1997 amendment, effective Nov 25, 1997, substituted “telecommunications and energy” for “public utilities”. Section 1 of the amending act provides as follows:

Section 1. It is hereby found and declared that:

(a) electricity service is essential to the health and well-being of all residents of the commonwealth, to public safety, and to orderly and sustainable economic development;

(b) affordable electric service should he available to all consumers on reasonable terms and conditions;

(c) ratepayers and the commonwealth will be best served by moving from (i) the regulatory framework extant on July 1, 1997, in which retail electricity service is provided principally by public utility corporations obligated to provide ultimate consumers in exclusive service territories with reliable electric service at regulated rates, to (ii) a framework under which competitive producers will supply electric power and customers will gain the right to choose their electric power supplier;

(d) the existing regulatory system results in among the highest, residential and commercial electricity rates paid by customers throughout the United States;

(e) such extraordinary high electricity rates have created significant adverse effects on consumers and on the ability of businesses located in the commonwealth to compete in regional, national, and international markets;

(f) the introduction of competition in the electric generation market will encourage innovation, efficiency, and improved service from all market participants, and will enable reductions in the cost of regulatory oversight;

(g) competitive markets in generation should (i) provide electricity suppliers with the incentive to operate efficiently, (ii) open markets for new and improved technologies, (iii) provide electricity buyers and sellers with appropriate price signals, and (iv) improve public confidence in the electric utility industry;

(h) since reliable electric service is of utmost importance to the safety, health, and welfare of the commonwealth’s citizens and economy, electric industry restructuring should enhance the reliability of the interconnected regional transmission systems, and provide strong coordination and enforceable protocols for all users of the power grid;

(i) it is vital that sufficient supplies of electric generation will be available to maintain the reliable service to the citizens and businesses of the commonwealth; and that.

(j) the commonwealth should ensure that universal service are energy conservation policies, activities, and services are appropriately funded and available throughout the commonwealth, and should guard against the exercise of vertical market power and the accumulation of horizontal market power;

(k) long-term rate reductions can be achieved most effectively by increasing competition and enabling broad consumer choice in generation service, thereby allowing market forces to play the principal role in determining the suppliers of generation for all customers;

(l) the primary elements of a more competitive electricity market will be customer choice, preservation and augmentation of consumer protections, full and fair competition in generation, and enhanced environmental protection goals;

(m) the interests of consumers can best be served by an expedient and orderly transition from regulation to competition in the generation sector consisting of the unbundling of prices and services and the functional separation of generation services from transmission and distribution services;

(n) the restructuring of the existing electricity system should not undermine the policy of the commonwealth that electricity bills for low income residents should remain as affordable as possible;

(o) the commonwealth should enter into a compact with the other New England states and New York State, that provides incentives for the public and investor owned electricity utilities located in such states to sell energy to retail customers in Massachusetts which adheres to enforceable standards and protocols and protects the reliability of interconnected regional transmission and distribution systems;

(p) since reliable electricity service depends on conscientious inspection and maintenance of transmission and distribution systems, to continue and enhance the reliability of the delivery of electricity, the regional network and the commonwealth, the department of telecommunications and energy should set stringent and comprehensive inspection, maintenance, repair, replacement, and system service standards;

(q) the transition to expanded customer choice and competitive markets may produce hardships for employees whose working lives were dedicated to their employment;

(r) it is preferable that possible reductions in the workforce directly caused by electricity restructuring be accomplished through collective bargaining negotiations and offers of voluntary severance, retraining, early retirement, outplacement, and related benefits;

(s) the transition to a competitive generation market should be orderly and be completed as expeditiously as possible, should protect electric system reliability, and should provide electricity corporation investors with a reasonable opportunity to recover prudently incurred costs associated with generation-related assets and obligations, within a reasonable and fair deregulation framework consistent with the provisions of this act;

(t) the recovery of such prudently incurred costs shall occur only after such electric companies take all practicable measures to mitigate stranded investments during the transition to a competitive market;

(u) such charges associated with the transition should be collected over a specific period of time on a non-bypassable basis and in a manner that does not result in an increase in rates to customers of electricity corporations;

(v) financial mechanisms should be available that allow electricity corporations to securitize that portion of their transition costs which cannot be divested in the marketplace and which concurrently minimize transition charges to consumers;

(w) the initial benefit of this transition to a competitive market shall result in consumer electricity rate reductions of at least 10 per cent beginning on March 1, 1998, as part of an aggregate rate reduction totaling at least 15 per cent upon the subsequent approval of divestiture and securitization; and.

(x) the general court seeks, through the enactment of this legislation, to establish the parameters upon which a restructuring of the electricity industry shall be based and which reflects the public policy decisions for the commonwealth designed to balance the needs of all participants in the existing and future systems;

Therefore, it is found that it is in the public interest of the commonwealth to promote the property and general welfare of its citizens, a public purpose for which public money may be expended, by restructuring the electricity industry in the commonwealth to foster competition and promote reduced electricity rates through the enactment of the following statutory changes.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Review References


Sharon v. City of Newton, 437 Mass. 99; 769 N.E.2d 738; 2002 Mass. LEXIS 384

Sharon v. City of Newton, 437 Mass. 99; 769 N.E.2d 738; 2002 Mass. LEXIS 384

Merav Sharon vs. City of Newton.

SJC-08671

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

437 Mass. 99; 769 N.E.2d 738; 2002 Mass. LEXIS 384

April 2, 2002, Argued

June 10, 2002, Decided

Prior History: [***1] Middlesex. Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on November 5, 1998. A motion to amend answer was heard by Martha B.

Sosman, J., and the case was heard by Leila R. Kern, J., on a motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

Disposition: Affirmed.

Headnotes: Practice, Civil, Answer, Amendment, Motion to amend. Parent and Child, Education. Release. School and School Committee, Liability for tort.

Public Policy. Contract, Minor, Release from liability, Consideration.

Negligence, Contractual limitation of liability, School. Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Governmental Immunity.

Counsel: Jeffrey Petrucelly for the plaintiff.

Richard G. Chmielinski, Assistant City Solicitor, for the defendant.

The following submitted briefs for amici curiae: Thomas J. Urbelis for Massachusetts City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association.

Michael K. Gillis & John J. St. Andre for The Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys.

Leonard H. Kesten & Patricia M. Malone for Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Judges: Present (Sitting at Barnstable): Marshall, C.J., Greaney, Ireland, Spina, & Cordy, JJ.

Opinion by: Cordy

Opinion: [**741]

[*100] CORDY, J. In this case, we consider the question of the validity of a release signed by the parent of a minor child for the purpose of permitting her to engage in public school extra-curricular sports activities. The question is one of first impression in the Commonwealth.

A. Background.

On November 8, 1995, sixteen year old Merav Sharon [***2] was injured while participating in a cheerleading practice at Newton North High School. Merav fell from a teammate’s shoulders while rehearsing a pyramid formation cheer and sustained a serious compound fracture to her left arm that required surgery. n1 At the time of her injury, Merav had had four seasons of cheerleading experience at the high school level.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

n1 Merav Sharon’s injury occurred during a cheerleading squad practice in the school’s dance studio that was equipped with one-inch thick mats on the floor.

The team used members of the squad as spotters while performing difficult stunts or cheers. While such spotters were in place at the time of Merav’s injury, her spotter was not able to catch her or break her fall from the top of the pyramid.

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

On November 5, 1998, having reached the age of majority, Merav filed suit against the city of Newton, alleging negligence (Count I) and the negligent hiring and retention of the cheerleading coach (Count II). n2 The city filed its answer on December 24, 1998. In late [***3] October, 1999, during the course of discovery, the city came across a document entitled “Parental Consent, Release from Liability and Indemnity Agreement” signed by Merav and her father in August, 1995, approximately three months prior to the injury. The relevant part of the release reads as follows:

“[I] the undersigned [father] . . . of Merav Sharon, a [*101] minor, do hereby consent to [her] participation in voluntary athletic programs and do forever RELEASE, acquit, discharge, and covenant to hold harmless the City of Newton . . . from any and all actions, causes of action, [and] claims . . . on account of, or in any way growing out of, directly or indirectly, all known and unknown personal injuries or property damage which [I] may now or hereafter have as the parent . . . of said minor, and also all claims or right of action for damages which said minor has or hereafter may acquire, either before or after [she] has reached [her] majority resulting . . . from [her] participation in the Newton Public Schools Physical Education Department’s athletic programs . . . .”

The city filed a motion for summary judgment raising the signed release as a defense.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

n2 The negligence claims were brought against the city of Newton pursuant to the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, G. L. c. 258.

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – – [***4]

Merav filed an opposition to the city’s motion for summary judgment in which she argued that, because the release had not been raised as an affirmative defense in the city’s answer, it should be deemed waived. Shortly thereafter, the city filed a motion to amend its answer in order to add the release as an affirmative defense. One judge in the Superior Court allowed the city’s motion to amend on June 30, 2000, and a second judge subsequently allowed the city’s motion for summary judgment based on the validity of the release. n3 [**742] In her ruling, the judge concluded that “[a] contrary ruling would detrimentally chill a school’s ability to offer voluntary athletic and other extra -curricular programs.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

n3 The city also filed a motion to implead Merav’s father as a third-party defendant based on the release. This motion was granted but the third-party complaint was subsequently dismissed as moot.

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Merav filed a timely appeal claiming that (1) the motion judge abused her discretion by allowing the city to amend its [***5] answer late; (2) the grant of summary judgment was inappropriate because genuine issues of material fact remained in dispute; and (3) the release signed by Merav and her father was invalid because (a) she disavowed it on attaining her majority n4; (b) the release violates public policy; (c) the release is contrary to the [*102] Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, G. L. c. 258, § 2; and (d) the release is invalid for lack of consideration. We transferred the case here on our own motion and now affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of the city. n5

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

n4 The city concedes that minors may ratify or disaffirm their own contracts on reaching the age of majority. It prevailed below on the theory that Merav’s father could effectively waive her claim by signing the release.

n5 We acknowledge amicus briefs of the Massachusetts City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and The Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys.

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

B. Discussion.

1. Amendment [***6] of the city’s answer. Merav claims that the allowance of the city’s untimely motion to amend its answer was prejudicial error and that, because the city failed to raise the release as an affirmative defense in its original answer, the defense should be deemed waived.

It is well established that the defense of a release must be raised as an affirmative defense and that the omission of an affirmative defense from an answer generally constitutes a waiver of that defense. See Mass. R. Civ. P. 8 (c), 365 Mass. 749 (1974); Leahy v. Local 1526, Am. Fed’n of State, County & Mun. Employees, 399 Mass. 341, 351, 504 N.E.2d 602-352 (1987), citing J.W. Smith & H.B. Zobel, Rules Practice § 8.6, at 797-798 (1974 & Supp. 1986); Coastal Oil New England, Inc. v. Citizens Fuels Corp., 38 Mass. App. Ct. 26, 29 n.3, 644 N.E.2d 258 (1995). It is equally well settled that a party may amend its pleading by leave of court and that such leave “shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Mass. R. Civ. P. 15 (a), 365 Mass. 761 (1974). See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 9 L. Ed. 2d 222, 83 S. Ct. 227 (1962) (interpreting identical language [***7] in Federal rule and stating mandate that leave to amend “shall be freely given when justice so requires” is to be heeded).

Merav contends that the combination of undue delay and prejudice to her case should have led the judge to deny the city’s motion to amend. While we have often upheld a judge’s discretion to deny leave to amend based in part on undue delay, such denials have generally been coupled with consideration of other factors such as imminence of trial and futility of the claim sought to be added. See, e.g., Leonard v. Brimfield, 423 Mass. 152, 157, 666 N.E.2d 1300 (1996); Mathis v. Massachusetts Elec. Co., 409 Mass. 256, 264, 565 N.E.2d 1180 (1991); Castellucci v. United States Fid. & Guar. Co., 372 Mass. 288, 292, 361 N.E.2d 1264 (1977). Given that the amendment in this [*103] case did not raise a new issue on the eve of trial and could not be considered futile or irrelevant to the city’s defense, the judge did not abuse her discretion in granting the motion to amend the city’s answer.

2.

Summary Judgment.

By proffering the release signed by Merav and her father releasing the city [**743] from any claims that Merav [***8] might acquire from her participation in the city’s athletic program, the city has met its initial burden of demonstrating that Merav’s negligence claim is likely to be precluded at trial.

n6 In response, Merav contends both that there are issues of material fact in dispute regarding the validity of the release, and that it is unenforceable as a matter of law and public policy. We conclude that the facts Merav contends are in dispute are not material, enforcement of the release is consistent with our law and public policy, and Newton is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

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n6 When a release is raised in defense of such a claim, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that it is not a valid bar to her suit. See Gannett v. Lowell, 16 Mass. App. Ct. 325, 327, 450 N.E.2d 1121 (1983).

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a. Merav’s factual contentions. Merav first argues that there are disputed issues of material fact regarding her understanding of the release and its voluntariness. She contends that neither she nor her father [***9] realized that by signing the release they were waiving their future claims against the school, and that their understanding of what they signed is a matter of fact to be decided by a jury. As the motion judge properly noted, “it is a rule in this Commonwealth that the failure to read or to understand the contents of a release, in the absence of fraud or duress, does not avoid its effects.” Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., Inc., 349 Mass. 544, 550, 209 N.E.2d 329-551 (1965). The undisputed evidence supports the conclusion that both Merav and her father had ample opportunity to read and understand the release before signing it, and they are therefore deemed to have understood it. Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of the Nat’l Safety Council, 416 Mass. 286, 289, 620 N.E.2d 784 (1993).

The release is a clearly labeled, two-sided document, which Merav brought home from school for her parents to review. Merav and her father both signed the front of the release, which they indicated was for the sport of “cheerleading.”

In addition, [*104] they filled out the back of the release that called for information regarding Merav’s address, date of birth, health insurance provider, and emergency [***10] contacts, and which provided for the purchase of optional student accident insurance through the school (an option which they explicitly declined on the form). Her father also signed the back of the release giving parental consent to a physical examination of Merav prior to her participation in the cheerleading program. In these respects, the circumstances differ substantially from the so-called “baggage check” or “ticket” cases relied on by Merav in which a customer merely purchases a ticket or receives a receipt that contains release language. See Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., Inc., supra; O’Brien v. Freeman, 299 Mass. 20, 11 N.E.2d 582 (1937); Kushner v. McGinnis, 289 Mass. 326, 194 N.E. 106 (1935).

In these “baggage check” and “ticket” cases, we have ruled that the “type of document which the patron receives and the circumstances under which he receives it are not such that a person of ordinary intelligence would assume that the ticket limits the proprietor’s liability unless the patron becomes actually aware of that limitation.” Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., Inc., supra at 549-550.

Therefore, we have [***11] held in those cases that actual notice of the limitation of liability may be a question of fact properly submitted to the jury. This is not such a case. The release at issue here was clearly labeled as such and was filled out and signed by Merav and her father for the purpose of ensuring that she would be permitted to [**744] participate in an ongoing extracurricular activity. These are not circumstances likely to mislead a person of ordinary intelligence as to whether a limitation of liability might be included in the type of document being executed. There is no dispute that Merav and her father had ample opportunity to review and understand the release. Their failure to do so does not avoid its effects as a matter of law. Id. Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of the Nat’l Safety Council, supra. Merav further argues that a jury should consider whether the release was signed under duress because, had she refused to sign it, she would not have been allowed to participate in cheerleading. This argument was not made to the motion judge, and is waived. But see Minassian v. Ogden Suffolk Downs, Inc., [*105] 400 Mass. 490, 492, 509 N.E.2d 1190 (1987) (“take it [***12] or leave it” release as condition of voluntary participation enforceable).

b. Public policy. Merav next contends that enforcement of the release against her claims would constitute a gross violation of public policy. This argument encompasses at least three separate public policy contentions: first, that it is contrary to public policy to permit schools to require students to sign exculpatory agreements as a prerequisite to participation in extracurricular school sports; second, that public policy prohibits a parent from contracting away a minor child’s right to sue for a future harm; and third, that the enforcement of this release would undermine the duty of care that public schools owe their students.

In weighing and analyzing Merav’s public policy arguments, we must also consider other important public policies of the Commonwealth implicated in the resolution of this issue, including policies favoring the enforcement of releases, and the encouragement of extracurricular athletic programs for school-aged children.

(1) Releases. Massachusetts law favors the enforcement of releases. Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., Inc., 349 Mass. 544, 550 (1965), citing MacFarlane’s Case, 330 Mass. 573, 576, 115 N.E.2d 925 (1953); [***13] Clarke v. Ames, 267 Mass. 44, 47, 165 N.E. 696 (1929). A party may, by agreement, allocate risk and exempt itself from liability that it might subsequently incur as a result of its own negligence. See, e.g., Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., Inc., supra at 550; Barrett v. Conragan, 302 Mass. 33, 18 N.E.2d 369 (1938); Ortolano v. U-Dryvit Auto Rental Co., 296 Mass. 439, 6 N.E.2d 346 (1937). See also J.W. Smith & H.B. Zobel, Rules Practice § 8.18 (1974). “There can be no doubt . . . that under the law of Massachusetts . . . in the absence of fraud a person may make a valid contract exempting himself from any liability to another which he may in the future incur as a result of his negligence or that of his agents or employees acting on his behalf.” Schell v. Ford, 270 F.2d 384, 386 (1st Cir. 1959).

Whether such contracts be called releases, covenants not to sue, or indemnification agreements, they represent “a practice our courts have long found acceptable.” Minassian v. Ogden Suffolk Downs, Inc., supra at 493. See Shea v. Bay State Gas Co., 383 Mass. 218, 223-224, 418 N.E.2d 597 (1981); [***14] Clarke v. Ames, supra at 47.

[*106] The context in which such agreements have been upheld range beyond the purely commercial. In Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., Inc., supra, we upheld a release signed as a prerequisite to a spectator entering the pit area of an automobile race, and in Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of the Nat’l Safety Council, 416 Mass. 286, 620 N.E.2d 784 (1993), we similarly [**745] upheld a release signed by a beginner rider as a condition of her enrollment in a motorcycle safety class. In both cases, the plaintiffs were subsequently injured by the allegedly negligent acts of the other party to the release. In the Lee case, supra, we concluded that the denial of the defendant’s motion for a directed verdict was error on the basis of the validity of the release. In the Cormier case, supra, we upheld the granting of summary judgment on the same basis, holding that “placing the risk of negligently caused injury on a person as a condition of that person’s voluntary choice to engage in a potentially dangerous activity ordinarily contravenes no public policy of the Commonwealth.” Id. at 289. [***15] There is little that distinguishes the activity in the present case from those in the Lee and the Cormier cases.

Although Merav has suggested that, if the release at issue here is valid, there is nothing to prevent cities or towns from requiring releases for “simply allowing a child to attend school,” such a conclusion does not necessarily follow. We have not had occasion to rule on the validity of releases required in the context of a compelled activity or as a condition for the receipt of essential services (e.g., public education, medical attention, housing, public utilities), and the enforceability of mandatory releases in such circumstances might well offend public policy. See Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of the Nat’l Safety Council, supra at 289 n.1, citing Gonsalves v. Commonwealth, 27 Mass. App. Ct. 606, 608, 541 N.E.2d 366 (1989) (exacting release of liability for negligence from public employee who was under compulsion to enroll in training course might offend public policy). See also Recent Case, 102 Harv. L. Rev. 729, 734 (1989) (importance of service to public should be paramount factor in deciding whether [***16] to invalidate exculpatory release on public policy grounds). In this case, Merav’s participation in the city’s extracurricular activity of cheerleading was neither compelled nor essential, and we conclude that [*107] the public policy of the Commonwealth is not offended by requiring a release as a prerequisite to that participation.

(2) Parent’s waiver of a minor’s claim. Merav contends that a parent cannot waive, compromise, or release a minor child’s cause of action, and that enforcement of such a release against the child would violate public policy. She relies on a series of decisions from other jurisdictions. n7 The city on the other hand relies on a series of cases holding to the contrary. n8 While these cases are instructive and emblematic of the difficulty in balancing [**746] the important interests and policies at stake, we first look to our own law.

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n7 See Fedor v. Mauwehu Council, Boy Scouts of Am., Inc., 21 Conn. Supp. 38, 143 A.2d 466 (1958) (release signed by parent waiving child’s future claims violates public policy); Meyer v. Naperville Manner, Inc., 262 Ill. App. 3d 141, 146, 199 Ill. Dec. 572, 634 N.E.2d 411 (1994) (parent cannot waive, compromise, or release minor child’s cause of action); Doyle v. Bowdoin College, 403 A.2d 1206, 1208 n.3 (Me. 1979) (release signed by parent before son’s hockey injury void as to child’s cause of action); Childress v. Madison County, 777 S.W.2d 1, 7 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1989) (release signed by mother void as to son’s rights but valid as to mother’s); Scott v. Pacific W. Mountain Resort, 119 Wn. 2d 484, 494, 834 P.2d 6 (1992) (en banc) (preinjury release signed by parent does not bar child’s cause of action). [***17] n8 See Hohe v. San Diego Unified Sch. Dist., 224 Cal. App. 3d 1559, 274 Cal. Rptr. 647 (1990) (parent may execute release on behalf of minor child); Cooper v. United States Ski Ass’n, 32 P.3d 502, 29 Colo. Law. No. 10 166 (Colo. Ct. App. 2000) (mother’s release of minor child’s claims for negligence valid and enforceable); Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc., 82 Ohio St. 3d 367, 696 N.E.2d 201 (1998) (mother had authority to bind minor child to exculpatory agreement).

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Under our common law, “any contract, except one for necessaries, entered into by an unemancipated minor could be disaffirmed by him before he reached the age of [eighteen] or within a reasonable time thereafter.” Slaney v. Westwood Auto, Inc., 366 Mass. 688, 692, 322 N.E.2d 768 (1975). This long-standing principle has been applied to releases executed by a minor as far back as 1292. See 5 S. Williston, Contracts § 9.2, at 5 (4th ed. 1993), citing Y.B. 20 and 21 Edw. At 318 (1292) (release by minor “would not bar him from suing when he came of age”). While the common-law rule [***18] has been narrowed somewhat by statute, n9 it remains our law that the contract of a minor is generally [*108] voidable when she reaches the age of majority. Merav unequivocally repudiated the release (to the extent it might be deemed a contract executed by her) by filing suit against the city. See G.E.B. v. S.R.W., 422 Mass. 158, 164, 661 N.E.2d 646 (1996) (minor’s filing of suit is direct repudiation of contract not to sue signed by minor). The city concedes that Merav effectively disaffirmed the release, but contends that insofar as the release is signed by the parent and purports to release the school from any claim that might accrue to the minor, it remains valid because the parent can do what the minor cannot.

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n9 See, e.g., G. L. c. 167E, § 10 (student under eighteen years of age admitted to institution of higher learning has full legal capacity to act on her own behalf in contracts and other transactions regarding financing of education); G. L. c. 175, § 128 (certain contracts for life or endowment insurance may not be voided by minor over fifteen years of age); G. L. c. 175, § 113K (minor over sixteen years of age permitted to contract for motor vehicle liability insurance); G. L. c. 112, § 12E (minor over twelve years of age found to be drug dependent may consent to treatment for dependency); G. L. c. 112, § 12F (minor may consent to medical or dental treatment if she meets criteria outlined in statute).

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The purpose of the policy permitting minors to void their contracts is “to afford protection to minors from their own improvidence and want of sound judgment.” Frye v. Yasi, 327 Mass. 724, 728, 101 N.E.2d 128 (1951). This purpose comports with common sense and experience and is not defeated by permitting parents to exercise their own providence and sound judgment on behalf of their minor children. Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 602, 61 L. Ed. 2d 101, 99 S. Ct. 2493 (1979) (“The law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions”). See 1 W. Blackstone Commentaries 452 (9th ed. 1783) (minor’s consent to marriage void unless accompanied by parental consent; one of many means by which parents can protect children “from the snares of artful and designing persons”). Moreover, our law presumes that fit parents act in furtherance of the welfare and best interests of their children, Petition of the Dep’t of Pub. Welfare to Dispense with Consent to Adoption, 383 Mass. 573, 587-589, 421 N.E.2d 28 (1981); Sayre v. Aisner, 51 Mass. App. Ct. 794, 799 n.8, 748 N.E.2d 1013 (2001), [***20] and with respect to matters relating to their care, custody, and upbringing have a fundamental right to make those decisions for them. See Parham v. J.R., supra at 603 (parents can and must make judgments and decisions regarding risks to their children).

In the instant case, Merav’s father signed the release in his [*109] capacity as parent because he wanted his child to benefit from participating in cheerleading, as she had done for four previous seasons. He made an important family decision cognizant of the risk of physical injury to his [**747] child and the financial risk to the family as a whole. In the circumstance of a voluntary, nonessential activity, we will not disturb this parental judgment.

This comports with the fundamental liberty interest of parents in the rearing of their children, and is not inconsistent with the purpose behind our public policy permitting minors to void their contracts. n10

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n10 Our conclusion that parents may execute an enforceable preinjury release on behalf of their minor children is not inconsistent with our policy regarding discretionary court approval of settlement releases signed by minors. See ½ G. L. c. 231, § 140C ½ (allowing judge to approve settlement for damages stemming from personal injury to minor where parties have petitioned for such approval).

This statute applies only to postinjury releases, and the policy considerations underlying it are distinct from those at issue in the preinjury context. A parent asked to sign a preinjury release has no financial motivation to comply and is not subject to the types of conflicts and financial pressures that may arise in the postinjury settlement context, when simultaneously coping with an injured child. Such pressure can create the potential for parental action contrary to the child’s ultimate best interests. In short, in the preinjury context, there is little risk that a parent will mismanage or misappropriate his child’s property. See Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc., 82 Ohio St. 3d 367, 373, 696 N.E.2d 201 (1998).

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c. The encouragement of athletic activities for minors. Our views with respect to the permissibility of requiring releases as a condition of voluntary participation in extracurricular sports activities, and the enforceability of releases signed by parents on behalf of their children for those purposes, are also consistent with and further the public policy of encouraging athletic programs for the Commonwealth’s youth. This policy is most clearly embodied in statutes that exempt from liability for negligence: nonprofit organizations and volunteer managers and coaches who offer and run sports programs for children under eighteen years of age ( G. L. c. 231, § 85V), and owners of land (including municipalities) who permit the public to use their land for recreational purposes without imposing a fee ( G. L. c. 21, § 17C). See Anderson v. Springfield, 406 Mass. 632, 549 N.E.2d 1127 (1990) (city not liable for injuries to softball player resulting from negligently caused defect in city-owned baseball field).

To hold that releases of the type in question here are [*110] unenforceable would expose public schools, who offer [***22] many of the extracurricular sports opportunities available to children, to financial costs and risks that will inevitably lead to the reduction of those programs. n11 It would also create the anomaly of a minor who participates in a program sponsored and managed by a nonprofit organization not having a cause of action for negligence that she would have had had she participated in the same program sponsored as an extracurricular activity by the local public school. This distinction seems unwarranted, inevitably destructive to school-sponsored programs, and contrary to public interest.

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n11 The fact that G. L. c. 258, § 2, limits the financial exposure of municipalities to $ 100,000 an occurrence (plus defense costs) does not insulate them from the deleterious impact of inherently unquantifiable financial risk.

Public schools are not required by State law to offer voluntary extracurricular sports programs. Compare G. L. c. 71, § 3 (“physical education shall be taught as a required subject in all grades for all students in the public schools . ..” [emphasis added]) with G. L. c. 71, § 47 (cities and towns “may appropriate” money for employment of coaches and for support of extracurricular activities).

Consequently, in times of fiscal constraint, those programs are often the targets of budget reductions. A decision exposing school systems to further financial costs and risk for undertaking such programs cannot help but accelerate their curtailment.

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Merav contends that to enforce the release would convey the message that public school programs can be run negligently, in contravention of the well-established responsibility of schools to protect their students. We disagree. There are many reasons aside from potential tort liability why public schools will continue to take steps to ensure well-run and safe extracurricular programs—not the least of which is their ownership by, and accountability to, the citizens of the cities and towns they serve. Moreover, the Legislature has already made the judgment that the elimination of liability for negligence in nonprofit sports programs is necessary to the encouragement and survival of such programs. It can hardly be contended that the enactment of G. L. c. 231, § 85V, was an endorsement by the Legislature of the negligent operation of nonprofit programs or an act likely to encourage the proliferation of negligence. School extracurricular programs are similarly situated. n12 The enforcement of the release is consistent with the Commonwealth’s policy of [*111] encouraging athletic programs for youth and does not contravene the responsibility that schools have to protect [***24] their students.

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n12 Our holding is not intended to abrogate or qualify the special relationship that exists between a school and its students recognized in prior decisions, but not involving the validity of an exculpatory release required for participation in an extracurricular activity. See, e.g., Whitney v. Worcester, 373 Mass. 208, 366 N.E.2d 1210 (1977) (sight-impaired student injured by defective door during school hours); Alter v. Newton, 35 Mass. App. Ct. 142, 617 N.E.2d 656 (1993) (student hit in eye by lacrosse ball while waiting in school yard for parent).

It is also limited to the claims before us—and those claims concern ordinary negligence. The city specifically disavows any contention that the release here would relieve it from liability for gross negligence or reckless or intentional conduct. See Zavras v. Capeway Rovers Motorcycle Club, Inc., 44 Mass. App. Ct. 17, 18-19, 687 N.E.2d 1263 (1997), citing Gillespie v. Papale, 541 F. Supp. 1042, 1046 (D. Mass. 1982) (releases effective against liability for ordinary negligence but substantial outside authority holds same not true for gross negligence). Commentators have readily distinguished the public policy implications of exculpatory releases whose only effect is relief from ordinary negligence from those intended to relieve a party from gross negligence, or reckless or intentional conduct. See Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 195(1) (1981) (“A term exempting a party from tort liability for harm caused intentionally or recklessly is unenforceable on grounds of public policy”); 6A A. Corbin, Contracts § 1472, at 596-597 (1962) (“such an exemption [from liability] is always invalid if it applies to harm wilfully inflicted or caused by gross or wanton negligence”); W.L. Prosser & W.P. Keeton, Torts § 68, at 484 (5th ed. 1984) (“such agreements generally are not construed to cover the more extreme forms of negligence, described as willful, wanton, reckless or gross”).

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d. Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Merav’s reliance on G. L. c. 258, § 2, to support her claim that cities and towns should not be permitted to require or enforce releases regarding their negligent conduct, is misplaced. While the purpose of the Act may be to provide a remedy for persons injured as a result of the negligence of government entities, see Vasys v. Metropolitan Dist. Comm’n, 387 Mass. 51, 55, 438 N.E.2d 836 (1982), it does so by abrogating sovereign immunity only within a narrow statutory framework. The Act does “not create any new theory of liability for a municipality,” Dinsky v. Framingham, 386 Mass. 801, 804, 438 N.E.2d 51 (1982), but rather, specifically provides that they are liable “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” G. L. c. 258, § 2. Outside of the procedural limitations and exceptions contained within the Act, cities and towns are afforded the same defenses as private parties in tort claims. See Dinsky v. Framingham, supra.

[**749] Because releases of liability for ordinary negligence involving private [***26] parties are valid as a general proposition in the Commonwealth, [*112] it is not contrary to the purposes of the Act to allow municipalities to use releases as a precondition for the participation in voluntary, nonessential activities they may sponsor.

e. Consideration. Merav last argues that the release she signed is void because it was not supported by proper consideration. The motion judge properly concluded that the benefit bargained for, in this case Merav’s participation in the cheerleading program, was adequate consideration for the release. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 496B (1965) (not essential that agreements to assume risk of negligence be for consideration. Consent by participation in activity may be sufficient).

C. Conclusion.

For the reasons set forth above, we conclude that Merav’s father had the authority to bind his minor child to an exculpatory release that was a proper condition of her voluntary participation in extracurricular sports activities offered by the city. Summary judgment for the city that was entered on the basis of the validity of that release is therefore affirmed.

So ordered.

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Colleges, Officials, and a Ski Area are all defendants in this case.

Brush, v. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., Et Al, 626 F. Supp. 2d 139; 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204

MA Ski Safety Act and a release prevent the plaintiff’s suit.

As the court said, this is a sad case; the plaintiff was a student ski racer. She hit a lift tower during a race and became a paraplegic. She sued the ski area, Jimmy Peak Mountain Resort, Williams College, its coaches and several other officials of the race.

The race was part of a weekend Williams Winter Carnival. The carnival was at Jimmy Peak and included ski races. The plaintiff examined the Giant Slalom course. She exited the course during a run and struck an unprotected lift tower. The factual issues resolved around whether the tower was supposed to be protected by B-Netting (the red netting you see on the sides of ski races) or padding.

The race was on a homologated hill (a slope that met FIS regulations). The race organizers prepared a plan for the netting on the course which showed the netting in the area where the plaintiff left the course. When the plaintiff left the course, there was no netting to slow her down or stop her.

The plaintiff argued the “plan” was a requirement to run the race as required by FIS. The defendants argued the plan was where safety equipment might need to be necessary. The B-netting was not set up according to the plan.

Summary of the case

The plaintiff claimed the defendant ski area was liable for “…negligent operation of a ski area in violation of the MSSA (Count I); negligent failure to undertake duties assumed under a contract with Williams (Count II); and negligent inspection (Count III).

The court fist looked at the definition of Negligence and what the plaintiff must prove under Massachusetts law:

To prevail in a negligence action under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care; (2) the defendant breached this duty; (3) damage to the plaintiff resulted; and (4) the breach of the duty caused this damage.

The court reading the MSSA found the act served two “somewhat contradictory purposes “(1), to limit the liability of ski operators in order to ensure their economic survival and (2) to ensure skier safety.”

Reading the act the court found the duty that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was on the plaintiff, not the ski area. The lift tower was off the ski trail and therefore, under the MSSA the ski area had no duty to set up netting or pad it. If the netting had been set up voluntarily, then the court found there would still be no liability because negligence in a voluntary act does not create liability under the MSSA.

Indeed, this court has previously noted that “imposing liability on ski area operators for duties voluntarily assumed but negligently performed would undercut a key goal of the MSSA,” because it would discourage ski area operators from adding safety features.

The court then looked at the plaintiff’s claims that the agreements of the college to use the ski area which was enveloped in two contracts created contractual duties that the defendant ski area breached. Under Massachusetts law, a tort can be created from a contractual relationship. (This is a minority view in most states.) However, the court could not find language in the contracts that created a duty to undertake steps to keep the competition safe as possible.

The court found that the defendant ski area had not been negligent and had not violated a duty to the plaintiff and dismissed the defendant Jimmy Peak Ski Area.

The court then looked at the remaining defendants, the colleges and the race officials, most of whom were employees of the colleges. These defendants relied upon the release as their defense. The release was required by the USSA (United States Ski and Snowboard Association) to race in USSA events, which this race was. The release had a venue clause that required Colorado law be applied to interpret the release. Choice of law provisions (jurisdiction and venue clauses) absent substantial Massachusetts public policy reasons are upheld in Massachusetts.

The court then examined the release under Colorado law and found the release to be enforceable. The plaintiff argued the release was ambiguous. The waiver was clear to the signor that signing the release waived all claims against the USSA. The USSA waiver listed every possible person to be protected by the release.

United States Ski and Snowboard Association and “its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, volunteers, employees, coaches, contractors and representatives, local ski clubs, competition organizers and sponsors, and ski and snowboard facility operators.”

Consequently, the waiver protected the remaining defendants. The third party defendants were also released by the waiver because their liability was contingent on the liability of the first party defendants. If the first party defendants were not liable, the third party defendants could not be liable.

The final argument the court reviewed was the claim the actions of the defendants amounted to gross negligence. Under Colorado law a waiver does not protect against gross negligence.

…under Colorado law an exculpatory agreement cannot “provide a shield against a claim for willful and wanton negligence.” In Colorado an individual who “purposefully committed an affirmative act which he knew was dangerous to another’s person and which he performed heedlessly, without regard to the consequences or rights and safety of another’s person” can be found to have acted with willful and wanton negligence.

The court defined gross negligence as “Gross negligence involves “materially more want of care than constitutes simple inadvertence,” though “it is something less than willful, wanton and reckless conduct.”

The court found the defendants had not acted in a way that was gross negligence, and no jury could find gross negligence on the part of any defendants.

There is no evidence in the record, and indeed, no allegation, that any of the Defendants, or anyone at the competition, became aware that there was an area of the trail without netting where netting was normally placed and declined to remedy the situation. At most, there was a collective failure to take a step that might have lessened the injuries suffered by Plaintiff. No reasonable jury could find that this simple inadvertence, no matter how tragic its consequences, constituted gross negligence.

So Now What?

The first issue was what was the plan? Actually, a point that was not addressed in the decision which should be addressed here was why was there a plan?

How can you create a plan, call it a safety plan and not execute it 100%? If it just a draft, or if it is just ideas, you better label it that way. You cannot create documents like that, that are not going to come back and fry you.

Paperwork is the easiest way for a plaintiff to find something to prove you did something wrong. If your paperwork says you will do something that you did not do, or not do something that you did, the plaintiff will work hard to connect it to the injury. You set your own standards, defined your duty to the customers and/or guests (future plaintiffs) and then violated, breached those duties you created.

The choice of laws clause, jurisdiction and venue clause, did not work as it normally would have in this case. The case was brought in federal court because there were parties to the suit from two different states (called diversity jurisdiction cases). No one seemed to want to argue the jurisdiction and venue clause in the release should be enforced. That is difficult to do in some diversity jurisdiction cases in federal court; however, it is not impossible. The case would have had the same outcome under Colorado law, whether or not it would have been filed at all in Colorado after being dismissed in Massachusetts is the question.

Another flaw in how the defendants could have provided more protection is there was not a separate release for the event or the race. Between the Williams College Outing Club, the ski area and the college, someone should have required the participants to sign a release for the event. It could have been based on the course, not all possible courses in the US. It could have named the colleges and their employees to provide better protection. It could have been based on the facts and law of Massachusetts.

It is sad when a young woman has her life upended and changed. However, the law is the law. As the court stated:

It would, however, be false compassion now to ignore the undisputed facts and the unavoidable law. The Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, in the case of Jiminy Peak, and the USSA waiver, in the case of the other Defendants, forecloses any possibility of liability for payment of damages to Plaintiff in these circumstances. To encourage pursuit of a lawsuit lacking a legal basis would only serve to compound the tragedy.

 

Plaintiff: Kelly Brush

 

Defendant: Jiminy Peak, Inc., the operator of the ski area where the accident occurred; Williams College and two of its ski coaches, Edward Grees and Oyestein Bakken, who organized the competition; St. Lawrence University and its ski coach, Jeffrey Pier, who was the referee of the race during which Brush was injured; and Barry Bryant, who served as the competition’s Technical Delegate from the Federation Internationale de Ski (“FIS”). Pier and St. Lawrence University have also filed a third-party complaint seeking contribution from Brush’s school, Middlebury College, and its ski coach Forest Carey, who was a race referee for a race

 

Plaintiff Claims: negligence or gross negligence, negligent operation of a ski area in violation of the MSSA (Count I); negligent failure to undertake duties assumed under a contract with Williams (Count II); and negligent inspection (Count III).

 

Defendant Defenses: Massachusetts Ski Safety Act and Release

 

Holding: For all Defendants

 

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Massachusetts Sales Representatives

ANNOTATED LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS

PART I ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

TITLE XV REGULATION OF TRADE

Chapter 104 Agents, Consignees and Factors

GO TO MASSACHUSETTS CODE ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

ALM GL ch. 104, § 7 (2012)

§ 7. Sales Representatives — Definitions.

The following terms as used in sections eight and nine, unless the context otherwise requires, shall have the following meanings:

“Commission”, compensation accruing to a sales representative for payment by a principal, earned through the last day on which services were performed by the sales representative, the rate of which is expressed as a percentage of the dollar amount of orders or sales.

“Principal”, a person who manufactures, produces, imports or distributes a product for wholesale; contracts to solicit orders for such product, and compensates individuals who solicit wholesale orders in whole or in part, by commission.

“Sales representative”, a person other than an employee, who contracts with a principal to solicit wholesale orders in the commonwealth and who is compensated, in whole or in part, by commission but shall not include one who places orders or purchases exclusively for his own account for resale.

“Day”, any calendar day, including Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.

“Termination”, the end of services performed by the sales representative for the principal whether by expiration of a contract, discharge or resignation.

§ 8. Sales Representatives — Commissions.

The terms of the contract between a principal and a sales representative shall determine when a commission shall be due. If the time when such commission shall be due is not specified in a contract, the past practices between the parties shall control or, if there are no such past practices, the custom and usage prevalent in the commonwealth for the business that is the subject of the relationship between the parties shall control. All commissions that are due at the time of termination of a contract between a sales representative and principal shall be paid within fourteen days after the date of termination. Commissions that become due after the termination date shall be paid within fourteen days after the date on which the commissions became due.

§ 9. Sales Representatives — Commissions — Failure to Pay.

A principal who wilfully or knowingly fails to comply with provisions relating to the prompt payment of commissions set forth in section eight shall be liable to the sales representative in a civil action for the principal amount of the com-missions owed and for an additional sum up to three times the amount of commissions and for reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. A principal who is not a resident of the commonwealth and who enters into a contract subject to the provisions of sections seven to nine shall be deemed to be doing business in the commonwealth for purposes of the exercise of personal jurisdiction over such principal. No provision of sections seven to nine may be waived, whether by express waiver or by an attempt to make a contract or agreement subject to the laws of another jurisdiction. A waiver of any provision of sections seven to nine shall be void.

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Colorado Alliance Experiential Education Environmental Ed Conference-Teaching Outside the Box Conference

Please find information below about the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education‘s annual Environmental Education Conference-Teaching Outside the Box. The deadline to register with the early bird rates is April 1. Please find more details below and visit our website. Have a great day! http://www.caee.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=2

Teaching OUTSIDE the Box 2012

April 27- April 29, 2012 ~ Loveland, CO
La Quinta Inn’s and Suites

What is Teaching OUTSIDE the Box?

Teaching OUTSIDE the Box is an action-packed workshop that brings together the best in environmental education for a weekend of engaging presentations, networking, resource sharing, and more…

This conference is for:

Teachers, Interpreters, Environmental Educators, Youth Group Leaders, Naturalists, anyone who appreciates and wants to learn about environmental education – and YOU!

Workshop Topics include…
Nature and the Outdoors * Stewardship and Sustainability * Research, Trends and Techniques * Arts and Culture * Technology * And More!

Click here for more information on the sessions being offered: http://www.caee.org/schedule-and-sessions

The conference is full of professional development opportunities including sessions:

· With fresh ideas for your classroom (hands-on activities, service learning, climate change, and more)

· About new trends in environmental education (certification, quality assurance)

· To make your life easier (communications, grant writing, volunteer management, publicity)

· To inspire you (successful EE collaborations, nature journaling)

· To rejuvenate you (yoga, movement, astronomy)

Become a member and get a discount of up to $50 on registration.

For more information and to register: http://www.caee.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=2

When

April 27th, 2012 9:00 AM through April 29th, 2012 5:00 PM

Location

La Quinta Inn and Suites 1450 Cascade Ave Loveland, CO 80537‎

Contact Phone: info

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LaFond v. Salomon North America, Inc. et al., 2011 Mass. Super. LEXIS 344

Gary LaFond v. Salomon North America, Inc. et al.1

1 Amer Sports Winter & Outdoor Company, and Salomon S.A.

Opinion No.: 118812, Docket Number: SUCV2008-01383

SUPERIOR COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS, AT SUFFOLK

2011 Mass. Super. LEXIS 344

December 19, 2011, Decided

December 20, 2011, File

JUDGES: [*1] Elizabeth M. Fahey, Justice of the Superior Court.

OPINION BY: Elizabeth M. Fahey

OPINION

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT SALOMON S.A.’S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

The plaintiff, Gary LaFond (“LaFond”), was injured when one of his ski bindings broke while he was skiing in Utah. LaFond brought this action against Salomon North America, Inc., Amer Sports Winter & Outdoor Company (“ASWO”), and Salomon S.A., asserting claims of negligence, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and violation of G.L.c. 93A. The action is now before the court on Salomon, SA’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

The following relevant jurisdictional facts are taken from the materials before the court. LaFond is a resident of Massachusetts. Salomon S.A. is a French corporation with its principal place of business in Annecy, France.2 According to the declaration of the senior legal counsel for Salomon S.A.’s European legal department, Laurence Grollier (“Grollier”), Salomon S.A. does not maintain an office, employees, agents, or real property in Massachusetts. It distributes its Salomon-branded products in the [*2] United States through a single entity, ASWO, which submits orders to Salomon S.A. in France. Salomon S.A. then ships the products to AWSO in Ogden, Utah, but it has no further involvement or control over the resale and distribution of the shipped products. Salomon S.A. has not entered into any contracts to perform services in Massachusetts.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

2 The corporation states that LaFond has mistakenly referred to it as Salomon S.A., whereas its title should be Salomon S.A.S. Given that the corporation has been entered into the court’s docket as Salomon S.A., the court will use that title.

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Salomon S.A. has not visited Massachusetts to market, promote, or solicit sales of its products, including the binding that allegedly caused LaFond’s injury. Salomon S.A. does maintain a website, http://www.salomon.com (“Website”), which is accessible (presumably all the time) in Massachusetts. The Website includes information on Salomon products, but U.S. consumers may not purchase such products directly through the Website. If a consumer wishes to purchase a Salomon product, however, the Website includes a search function whereby said consumer can locate area retail stores that sell Salomon-branded products. Counsel [*3] for LaFond avers in an affidavit that she conducted such a search on the website and located fifty-six Massachusetts retailers that sell Salomon products.

In June 2004, LaFond accessed the Website and researched different Salomon alpine ski bindings. Based in part on the information the Website provided, LaFond decided to buy Salomon 912Ti alpine ski bindings. Knowing that Bob Smith’s Wilderness House (“Wilderness House”) sold Salomon products at its Boston location, he visited that store to buy the Salomon 912Ti bindings, doing so in June 2004.

LaFond alleges that he was skiing in Alta, Utah on January 20, 2007, when the heel plate of his left ski binding broke, causing him to fall and injure himself seriously. Upon returning to Massachusetts, LaFond brought the defective binding back to Wilderness House, reported his January 20, 2007 accident to the store, and requested that the defective binding be replaced with a new Salomon binding. The materials before the court indicate that a new binding was shipped to Wilderness House, but it is not clear who shipped the binding.

DISCUSSION

HN1Go to this Headnote in the case.In order for a Massachusetts court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, the [*4] defendant’s conduct must fall within the limits of the Massachusetts long-arm statute, G.L.c. 223A, §3(a)-(h). See Good Hope Indus., Inc. v. Ryder Scott Co., 378 Mass. 1, 5-6, 389 N.E.2d 76 (1979). In addition, the exercise of personal jurisdiction must comply with the due process requirements of the U.S. Constitution. See id. at 5-6. These two parts often converge into a single inquiry, because G.L.c. 223A “functions as ‘an assertion of jurisdiction over the person to the limits allowed by the Constitution of the United States.'” Id. at 6, quoting “Automatic” Sprinkler Corp. of Am. v. Seneca Foods Corp., 361 Mass. 441, 443, 280 N.E.2d 423 (1972).

HN2Go to this Headnote in the case.When confronted with a motion to dismiss under Mass.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing facts sufficient to show that the Massachusetts’ court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. See Droukas v. Divers Training Academy, Inc., 375 Mass. 149, 151, 376 N.E.2d 548 (1978). The court views the jurisdictional facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Cepeda v. Kass, 62 Mass.App.Ct. 732, 738, 819 N.E.2d 979 (2004). Nevertheless, the court does not have to “credit conclusory allegations or draw farfetched inferences.” Workgroup Tech. Corp. v. MGM Grand Hotel, LLC, 246 F.Sup.2d 102, 108 (D.Mass. 2003) [*5] (citations omitted).

I. Long-Arm Statute

LaFond argues that this court may exercise personal jurisdiction over Salomon S.A. based on three provisions of the long-arm statute, G.L.c. 223A, §3(a), (b), and (f). Because this court finds that jurisdiction is appropriate under G.L.c. 223A, §3(a), it will not address the other provisions.

A. G.L.c. 223A, §3(a

HN3Go to this Headnote in the case.”A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action in law or equity arising from the person’s (a) transacting any business in this commonwealth . . .” G.L.c. 223A, §3(a). The “transacting any business” language is construed broadly. See Tatro v. Manor Care, Inc., 416 Mass. 763, 767, 625 N.E.2d 549 (1994). “Although an isolated (and minor) transaction with a Massachusetts resident may be insufficient, generally the purposeful and successful solicitation of business from residents of the Commonwealth, by a defendant or its agent, will suffice to satisfy this requirement.” Id.

This court concludes that Salomon S.A. has engaged in such purposeful and successful solicitation of business from Massachusetts residents via the Website.3 The Website is not merely a passive instrument that only presents [*6] information about Salomon products. See McBee v. Delica Co., 417 F.3d 107, 124 (1st Cir. 2005) (“[T]he mere existence of a website that is visible in a forum and that gives information about a company and its products is not enough, by itself, to subject a defendant to personal jurisdiction in that forum”); Zippo Mfg. Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F.Sup. 1119, 1124 (W.D.Pa. 1997) (“A passive Web site that does little more than make information available to those who are interested in it is not grounds for the exercise of personal jurisdiction”). Rather, it explicitly solicits business from Massachusetts residents by directing them to Massachusetts’ retailers that sell Salomon products.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

3 It appears that the question of whether a website may confer specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant pursuant to G.L.c. 223A, §3(a) is one of first impression in Massachusetts state courts. The parties did not cite, and this court could not find any Supreme Judicial Court or Appeals Court case addressing the question. This court considered reporting to the Appeals Court the correctness of its decision regarding personal jurisdiction over Salomon S.A., but, after thoroughly examining the relevant [*7] facts and law, ultimately decided not to do so

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

By thus soliciting business, Salomon S.A. purposefully targets Massachusetts’ residents through the Website. Compare Comer v. Comer, 295 F. Supp. 2d 201, 209-10 (D.Mass. 2003) (no personal jurisdiction over defendant pursuant to G.L.c. 223A, §3(a) where “website is ‘passive’—i.e., it only posts information for those who are interested and, admittedly, makes no mention of any ties to Massachusetts”); Berry v. Cook, 2011 WL 5841768 at *4 (Mass.Super. 2011) [29 Mass. L. Rptr. 97] (advertisement of vacation home through website does not confer personal jurisdiction pursuant to G.L.c. 223A, §3(a) where no evidence that website specifically targeted Massachusetts residents). Cf. Roberts v. Legendary Marine Sales, 447 Mass. 860, 864-65, 857 N.E.2d 1089 (2006) (no personal jurisdiction over defendant pursuant to G.L.c. 223A, §3(d) where website only provided information and did not solicit business in Massachusetts). Accordingly, Salomon S.A. transacts business in Massachusetts.

Further, LaFond’s claims against Salomon S.A. arise out of this business where he stated in an affidavit that he purchased the binding at issue in part based on research he conducted on the [*8] Website. See Tatro, 416 Mass. at 771 (construing §3(a)’s “arising from” language as broadly as “transacting business” language, and holding that “a claim arises from a defendant’s transaction of business in the forum State if the claim was made possible by, or lies in the wake of, the transaction of business in the forum State” (citation omitted)).

The literal requirements of the long-arm statute have therefore been satisfied.

II. Due Process

HN4Go to this Headnote in the case.In addition to fulfilling the statutory requirement of G.L.c. 223A, §3, an assertion of personal jurisdiction over the defendant must also comply with the due process requirements of the United States Constitution. See Good Hope Indus., Inc., 378 Mass. at 5-6. Due process requires that the non-resident defendant have “some minimum contact with the Commonwealth which resulted from an affirmative, intentional act of the defendant, such that it is fair and reasonable to require the defendant to come into the State to defend the action.” Id. at 7. In determining whether the exercise of specific jurisdiction comports with due process, the court must first examine whether “the defendant purposely avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities [*9] in the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.” Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S. Ct. 1228, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283 (1958). The lawsuit must also arise from or relate to the defendant’s specific conduct in the forum state. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472-73, 105 S. Ct. 2174, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528 (1985). Finally, the court may not exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant under circumstances “that would offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 113, 107 S. Ct. 1026, 94 L. Ed. 2d 92 (1987), quoting International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 90 L. Ed. 95 (1945).

A. Purposeful Availment

As discussed above, via the website, Salomon specifically targets Massachusetts’ residents and solicits their business. The evidence before this court also indicates that Salomon S.A. fulfills orders it receives from ASWO, the sole distributor of Salomon products in the United States, which then distributes those products to retailers in various states, including Massachusetts. Salomon S.A. lists fifty-six Massachusetts retailers on the Website, and it has clearly not instructed ASWO to refrain from distributing Salomon products to Massachusetts. As such, viewing the facts [*10] in the light most favorable to LaFond, Salomon S.A. purposefully avails itself of the benefits of doing business in Massachusetts by placing its products in the stream of commerce with the intention of reaching consumers, including consumers in Massachusetts.

As the United States District Court in Massachusetts has stated, HN5Go to this Headnote in the case.the purposeful availment “requirement goes beyond simple ‘foreseeability’ to ensure that only those defendants that willingly and purposefully avail themselves of the benefits of a state will be brought to court there.” Hasbro, Inc. v. Clue Computing, Inc., 994 F.Sup. 34, 44-45 (D.Mass. 1997) (personal jurisdiction over defendant complied with due process where it directed its advertising website to all states, doing nothing to avoid Massachusetts); see also Gather, Inc. v. Gatheroo, LLC, 443 F.Sup.2d 108, 117-18 (D.Mass. 2006) (distinguishing case where defendant prohibited sales in forum state and noting that “[n]o such limitation is found in Gatheroo’s [web]site”). Compare Accutest Corp. v. Accu Test Sys., Inc., 532 F.Sup. 416, 420 (D.Mass. 1982) (no personal jurisdiction where, “by instructing its underwriters not to sell stock in Massachusetts, defendant seems [*11] to have purposefully sought to avoid activity in this forum”). Salomon S.A.’s contacts with Massachusetts comply with this requirement.

B. Relatedness

This court has already concluded that LaFond’s claims against Salomon S.A. arise from the latter’s contacts with Massachusetts, so this due process requirement is fulfilled. See Back Bay Farm, LLC v. Collucio, 230 F.Sup.2d 176, 186 (D.Mass. 2002) (“Here, as the court has already determined, Plaintiff’s claim arises from Defendant’s Massachusetts activity. The relatedness element has thus been met”).

C. Fair Play and Substantial Justice

HN6Go to this Headnote in the case.In determining whether its exercise of personal jurisdiction over a defendant constitutes fair play and substantial justice, a court examines the following factors: “(1) the burden on the defendant in appearing; (2) the interest of the forum state in adjudicating the dispute; (3) the interest of the plaintiff in obtaining convenient and effective relief: (4) the interest of the judicial system in obtaining the most effective resolution of the controversy; and (5) the interests common to all sovereigns in promoting substantive social policies.” Back Bay Farm, LLC, 230 F.Sup.2d at 187.

HN7Go to this Headnote in the case.As for the first factor, [*12] it “is only meaningful where a party can demonstrate some kind of special or unusual burden.” Hasbro, Inc., 994 F.Sup. at 45, quoting Pritzker v. Yari, 42 F.3d 53, 64 (1st Cir. 1994). While Salomon S.A. claims that because it is a French company with no office or personnel located in Massachusetts, having to defend itself in Massachusetts would put it at a severe disadvantage, it does not differentiate itself from any other alien corporation with no presence in the forum state.4 As such, Salomon S.A. has not shown any special or unusual burden, and the first factor holds no significance.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

4 Additionally, the case Salomon S.A. cites to support its assertion that its status as a French company with no Massachusetts presence provides a basis to deny personal jurisdiction is not a personal jurisdiction case. Rather, the case, The Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1, 92 S. Ct. 1907, 32 L. Ed. 2d 513 (1972), deals with a forum selection clause in a contract between the parties.

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The court finds that the next four factors weigh in favor of this court asserting personal jurisdiction over Salomon S.A. First, Massachusetts clearly has an interest in adjudicating the claims of one of its residents injured by a product sold [*13] in Massachusetts and provided by a company that specifically solicits Massachusetts business. Second, as the United States District Court in Massachusetts has recognized, “[t]he average consumer who is injured by a defective product generally lacks the resources necessary to enable him to prosecute his claim effectively against the manufacturer who is situated in a distant jurisdiction.” Mark v. Obear & Sons, Inc., 313 F.Sup. 373, 376 (D.Mass. 1970). This is especially true here where Salomon S.A. is located in a distant foreign country. Third, because witnesses, medical records, documents, and other evidence in this case are likely scattered among Utah (where LaFond’s accident occurred), Massachusetts (where LaFond resides and where the binding was sold), and France (presumably where Salomon S.A. designed and manufactured the binding), Massachusetts is as effective a forum location as Utah or France. Similarly, while Massachusetts and France both have an interest in promoting substantive social policies, Massachusetts’ interest is stronger here given the facts of this case.

Finally, this court notes that failing to assert personal jurisdiction over Salomon S.A. in this case would in [*14] fact not comply with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. This court declines to permit “a manufacturer such as [Salomon S.A.] whose plant is a great distance from the State where it causes its products to be marketed . . . as a practical matter [to] insulate itself against suits by injured consumers by the simple expedient of [providing] its products through an independent distributor.” Mark, 313 F.Sup. at 376.

ORDER

Based on the foregoing, it is hereby ORDERED that Salomon S.A.’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is DENIED.

Elizabeth M. Fahey

Justice of the Superior Court

Dated: December 19, 2011

 


Jurisdiction in Massachusetts allows a plaintiff to bring in Salomon France to the local court.

Lafond v. Salomon North America Inc. et al, Superior Court County of Suffolk, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Although not a Precedent setting decision, it is indicative of where the courts are going.

This is a decision in the trial court of Massachusetts over ski bindings. The bindings broke injuring the plaintiff while he was skiing in Utah. He sued Salomon in the US and Salomon SAS, the French parent company based on Annecy France. The retailer, Bob Smith’s Wilderness House was brought in as a third party defendant.

The defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, or what is referred to as a Rule 12(b)(2) motion. A Motion to Dismiss is granted only if the pleadings of the plaintiff do not state a legal claim or the defendant can’t be sued in this case. No evidence is reviewed by the court; it is purely a simple legal argument based on the laws of procedure.

Salomon SAS argued that it had no business in France, did no business in any country other than with Salomon North America based in Ogden Utah. Therefore, because it did no business in Massachusetts, it should not be brought into the litigation in Massachusetts.

So?

English: Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Image via Wikipedia

The plaintiff claimed it went to the Salomon SAS website to research different bindings. The Salomon SAS website directed the plaintiff to the third party defendant Bob Smith’s Wilderness House as a retailer the plaintiff could from whom he could purchase the bindings.

The broken bindings were replaced by Salomon, although it is not known in the motion if it was Salmon SAS or Salomon North America.

The issue is whether court has the legal right to require a defendant to submit to its jurisdiction. The limits or requirements the court must follow are set usually set out in a long-arm  statute. That is the name given to the statute that controls whether the long arm of the law can extend outside of the state.

To exercise out of state jurisdiction over a defendant located in another state or country the defendant must have engaged in “purposeful and successful solicitation of business from Massachusetts residents.”

A website alone is not enough to bring a foreign or out of court defendant into the jurisdiction of a Massachusetts court. However, because the plaintiff identified the store where he purchased the bindings based on his actions on the Salomon SAS website that was enough to subject the foreign defendant to the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts court.

There are numerous other tests the court must review to subject a foreign business the jurisdiction of the court. However, this one act of directing the plaintiff to a local retailer was enough to subject the defendant to the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts court.

So Now What?

This is a crap decision. When a website brings you into court, a website alone, the purpose of long arm statutes has faded considerably.

However, this is just the first step in a long line of steps before the case is decided. Rarely is a Rule 12(b)(2) motion granted. Motions for Summary Judgment, other defense motions and a trial are all next, then appeals. Hopefully, an appellate court will look at this say the original decision must be overturned.

What can you do? In this case, maybe not a lot can be done, but there are something’s that might assist in some circumstances.

In every sale or contract, put into the agreement a jurisdiction and indemnification clause. You can use them in retail sales agreements with consumers, to some extent.

You also might consider an indemnification agreement between your US based distributor and yourself if you are a foreign, non US based, manufacture. The agreement would say that you would be 100% indemnified for any US based lawsuits, other than product recalls. This might encourage US plaintiff’s not to drag you into a US court.

Make sure your agreement with your US based distributor is not a big target for lawsuits. Identify when the inventory transfers to the US subsidiary and when payment is owed for the inventory.

Set up a defense program with your US Distributor, Reps and all retailers. The program should incorporate the use of a release. The program should make sure three things happen to help eliminate several of the issues in this case.

1.       It requires the use of a release by all parties at all times. You can even put one on your website. Releases are not 100% effective in product liability cases, but their jurisdiction and venue clauses may at least get the suit back to your home state.

2.      The agreement identifies who shall be protected who and for what reasons. The manufacture of a product in a product liability claim is going to be holding the bag in most cases so this is not a big deal. More importantly it keeps the retailer in your camp in litigation and prevents the embarrassment of brining in the retailer as a third party defendant, making them mad and making you look bad, that occurred in this case.

3.      It requires the retailer to notify you immediately of any problems so you can get ahead of the curve.

4.      It puts you in control of your litigation destiny and makes you look like the good guy when you are sued to all distributors and retailers in the industry.

For more cases on Jurisdiction and Venue see:

The legal relationship created between manufactures and US consumers

Four releases signed and all of them thrown out because they lacked one simple sentence!

A Recent Colorado Supreme Court Decision lowers the requirements to be brought into the state to defend a lawsuit.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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#RecreationLaw, #@RecreationLaw, #Cycling.Law #Fitness.Law, #Ski.Law, #Outside.Law, #Recreation.Law, #Recreation-Law.com, #Outdoor Law, #Recreation Law, #Outdoor Recreation Law, #Adventure Travel Law, #law, #Travel Law, #Jim Moss, #James H. Moss, #Attorney at Law, #Tourism, #Adventure Tourism, #Rec-Law, #Rec-Law Blog, #Recreation Law, #Recreation Law Blog, #Risk Management, #Human Powered, #Human Powered Recreation,# Cycling Law, #Bicycling Law, #Fitness Law, #Recreation-Law.com, #Backpacking, #Hiking, #Mountaineering, #Ice Climbing, #Rock Climbing, #Ropes Course, #Challenge Course, #Summer Camp, #Camps, #Youth Camps, #Skiing, #Ski Areas, #Negligence, #Snowboarding, #RecreationLaw, #@RecreationLaw, #Cycling.Law #Fitness.Law, #SkiLaw, #Outside.Law, #Recreation.Law, #RecreationLaw.com, #OutdoorLaw, #RecreationLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #AdventureTravelLaw, #Law, #TravelLaw, #JimMoss, #JamesHMoss, #AttorneyatLaw, #Tourism, #AdventureTourism, #RecLaw, #RecLawBlog, #RecreationLawBlog, #RiskManagement, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation,# CyclingLaw, #BicyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #RecreationLaw.com, #Backpacking, #Hiking, #Mountaineering, #IceClimbing, #RockClimbing, #RopesCourse, #ChallengeCourse, #SummerCamp, #Camps, #YouthCamps, #Skiing, #Ski Areas, #Negligence, #Snowboarding, sport and recreation laws, ski law, cycling law, Colorado law, law for recreation and sport managers, bicycling and the law, cycling and the law, ski helmet law, skiers code, skiing accidents, #Salomon, Salomon N.A., Salomon SAS, #Ski, #binding, #Massachusetts, Bob Smith’s Wilderness House,

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States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue

If your state is not listed here, you should assume a parent cannot waive a minor’s right to sue in your state.

State

By Statute

Restrictions

Alaska Alaska: Sec. 09.65.292 Sec. 05.45.120 does not allow using a release by ski areas for ski injuries
Arizona ARS § 12-553 Limited to Equine Activities
Colorado C.R.S. §§13-22-107 Some commentators consider the statute a little weak
Florida Florida Statute § 744.301 (3)

By Case Law

California Hohe v. San Diego Unified Sch. Dist., 224 Cal.App.3d 1559, 274 Cal.Rptr. 647 (1990)
Florida Global Travel Marketing, Inc v. Shea, 2005 Fla. LEXIS 1454 Allows a release signed by a parent to require arbitration of the minor’s claims
Florida Gonzalez v. City of Coral Gables, 871 So.2d 1067, 29 Fla. L. Weekly D1147 Release can be used for volunteer activities and by government entities
Massachusetts Sharon v. City of Newton, 437 Mass. 99; 769 N.E.2d 738; 2002 Mass. LEXIS 384
Minnesota Moore vs. Minnesota Baseball Instructional School, 2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 299
North Dakota McPhail v. Bismarck Park District, 2003 ND 4; 655 N.W.2d 411; 2003 N.D. LEXIS 3
Ohio Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc., 696 N.E.2d 201, 82 Ohio St.3d 367 (1998) Maybe only for non-profits
Wisconsin Osborn v. Cascade Mountain, Inc., 655 N.W.2d 546, 259 Wis. 2d 481, 2002 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1216, 2003 WI App 1 However the decision in Atkins v. Swimwest Family Fitness Center, 2005 WI 4; 2005 Wisc. LEXIS 2 voided all releases in the state

On the Edge, but not enough to really rely on

North Carolina Kelly v. United States of America, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89741 Ruling is by the Federal District Court and only a preliminary motion

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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MA proposed stupid bill to promote litigation in kayaking

I always love it when people who have no idea what they are talking about, tell others how to do something. I’m not talking about tourists at Devils Tower

English: Modern sea kayak in west Wales

Image via Wikipedia

Monument; in this case I’m talking the Massachusetts‘s legislation and how to teach sea kayaking.

Want proof? This was reported as testimony before a legislative committee.

“beginners are most at risk when they are fully strapped into a kayak….”

Rep. William M. Straus, D-Mattapoisett is the sponsor of the bill and author of the quote above. As a member of the board of directors of the Trade Association of Paddlesports (but speaking for myself) and a boater for 45 years, I’ve never seen a kayak that I was “strapped into” fully or not fully.

The Massachusetts legislation is proposing that kayaking schools must teach someone how to wet exit.

That is as dumb as it sounds!

The idea is based on, of course, a grieving family person, who is guessing that there relative died when he could not wet exit from his overturned boat. So we need to make sure no one else suffers that same fate, I guess.

First off, no reports show how or why the person died. But that does not matter, the legislature needs to act.

What’s worse is the witness reports about the accident state he victim was upright when he died, that he had rolled back up. Kayak student drowns off West Island. Consequently the new law about teaching wet exiting is not even based on events the law attempts to cure.

Things get worse. A kayak instructor would have to have the following to teach kayaking:

Is this measure going to save a life? No. What this measure will do is three things.

First it will make the widow feel better. She will feel like she has done something to keep someone from dying. She will feel like her husband did not die in vain. Our loved ones are not allowed to die without a cause or accomplishment in the US we must go out with either a bang or a legacy.

Second it will create lawsuits. We now have rules that will give anyone injured kayaking the opportunity to start a lawsuit. The first aid card of the instructor was out of date, the class did not fully cover wet exiting, the ACA certified instructor left the class for a minute and the non-ACA certified assistant was the only person there. I was not taught correctly therefore I can sue.

Third we will also have more government regulation. We have a state agency sticking their nose into kayaking schools and telling them how to do things. Again, another group of people who know nothing about what they are talking about, telling someone else how to do it. This blog seems to be coming around full circle: People with no clue telling those with the necessary education and experience how to do something.

See House endorses kayak wet-exit training

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Good Idea, Bad Approach and it Didn’t Work Anyway: Berkshire Ski Area wins lawsuit

A ski area recently one a lawsuit filed by the parents of a teenage who died skiing at the Berkshire East Ski Resort. Elizabeth Ann Loughman was skiing with her high school when she fell hitting a snowmaking hydrant. The jury deliberated for two hours before finding that the ski area and its employees were not liable for the death of the young women.

David Loughman the father of the deceased teenage stated he wanted to force the ski industry to install more safety equipment and hire more safety personnel.

This is a sad story in two ways. One, a young woman died skiing and two, a father felt the legal system was the best way to create a change in to keep other people safe. Another example where the law was felt by the parents to be the best way to accomplish their goals, but not an effective way.

For more information see:

Greenfield, Massachusetts Recorder.com: Jury: Ski resort not at fault in teen death

MassLive.com: Ski area wins lawsuit in death of local teen

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