Release stops one of the first lawsuits over bicycle racing.

Case explains in detail “Public Policy” or “Public Interest” and whether a release is void because of a public policy or interest.

Okura v. United States Cycling Federation et al., 186 Cal. App. 3d 1462; 231 Cal. Rptr. 429; 1986 Cal. App. LEXIS 2178 (Cal. App. 1986)

Plaintiff: Kevin Okura

Defendants: the South Bay Wheelmen, United States Cycling Federation and the City of Hermosa Beach

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence in the preparation and maintenance of the course.

Defendant Defenses: release

Holding: for the defendants

 

This case covers one of the first lawsuits over a bicycle race in the US. The race was organized by the South Bay Wheelmen, Inc. South Bay Wheelmen, Inc. was a nonprofit affiliate of another defendant, United States Cycling Federation. The final defendant was the city where the race was held, Hermosa Beach, California.

The plaintiff entered a race and fell when his bike hit debris as he was crossing railroad tracks. He slid into a guard rail suffering injuries upon impact.

To enter the race the plaintiff signed a release which was in the Southern California Cycling Federation Standard Athelete’s Entry Blank and Release Form. The form was 3.5 inches by 8 inches. The release language was fairly well-written and quoted; I believe in whole, in the court’s opinion.

The plaintiff argued that he had no chance to inspect the course and that the release was a contract of adhesion and was not sufficient “to put a participant on notice that he is actually signing a release.” The plaintiff did admit he signed release.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted and this appeal followed.

Summary of the case

The court looked at the general state of releases in California (at that time). Releases that do not involve or affect the “public interest” are valid. Under California law, whether a release affects the public interest is controlled by six issues.

In placing particular contracts within or without the category of those affected with a public interest, the courts have revealed a rough outline of that type of transaction in which exculpatory provisions will be held invalid. Thus the attempted but invalid exemption involves a transaction which exhibits some or all of the following characteristics.

[1] It concerns a business of a type generally thought suitable for public regulation.

[2] The party seeking exculpation is engaged in performing a service of great importance to the public, which is often a matter of practical necessity for some members of the public.

[3] The party holds himself out as willing to perform this service for any member of the public who seeks it, or at least for any member coming within certain established standards.

[4] As a result of the essential nature of the service, in the economic setting of the transaction, the party invoking exculpation possesses a decisive advantage of bargaining strength against any member of the public who seeks his services.

[5] In exercising a superior bargaining power the party confronts the public with a standardized adhesion contract of exculpation, and makes no provision whereby a purchaser may pay additional reasonable fees and obtain protection against negligence.

[6] Finally, as a result of the transaction, the person or property of the purchaser is placed under the control of the seller, subject to the risk of carelessness by the seller or his agents.”

The court then went through and further defined each of the six areas that can create a public interest and void a release under California law. The release in question did not meet any of those issues. “This situation does not present a transaction affecting the public interest. Therefore, there is no proscription for the release contained in the entry and release form herein.”

The final issue was whether the release at question was clear, legible and released the defendants from the type of risk, which caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

As previously indicated, the entire form is only three and one-half inches by eight inches and the only printing on the form other than the incidental information relating to the competitor is the release language.  It is not buried in a lengthy document or hidden among other verbiage.  The type is clear and legible and in light of the fact it has no other language to compete with, its size is appropriate.  The language is clear and unambiguous, and the first paragraph concludes with “even though that liability may arise out of negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities mentioned above.

Finally, the court found the release protected all three defendants.

So Now What?

This case provides great information to make sure your activity can use a release under California law or does not violate public policy or a public interest. The list of types of activities or actions that are of a public interest are there and easy to understand. If your business, activity or program does not meet the list, then a release should work to protect you from losing litigation.

This release was small, but contained the necessary language. The release language was not “buried in a lengthy document or hidden among other verbiage.” However, a stronger list of the risks of bicycle racing and a list of any specific issues of this race and/or this course are always valuable. A long list of the risk and possible injuries is always daunting and perhaps a waste of paper. However, in many cases, if the release does fail for some reason, the document can still be used to prove assumption of the risk.

 

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Okura v. United States Cycling Federation et al., 186 Cal. App. 3d 1462; 231 Cal. Rptr. 429; 1986 Cal. App. LEXIS 2178

Okura v. United States Cycling Federation et al., 186 Cal. App. 3d 1462; 231 Cal. Rptr. 429; 1986 Cal. App. LEXIS 2178

Kevin Okura, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. United States Cycling Federation et al., Defendants and Respondents

No. B021058

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Five

186 Cal. App. 3d 1462; 231 Cal. Rptr. 429; 1986 Cal. App. LEXIS 2178

November 12, 1986

PRIOR HISTORY: [***1] Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. SWC-77239, Abraham Gorenfeld, Temporary Judge. *

* Pursuant to California Constitution, article VI, section 21.

DISPOSITION: For the foregoing reasons, the judgment is affirmed.

CALIFORNIA OFFICIAL REPORTS SUMMARY In an action for personal injuries brought by a participant in a bicycle race for injuries suffered during the race, against the organizers of the race and the city in which the race was held, the trial court entered summary judgment for defendants based on a release which plaintiff had signed prior to entry in the race. (Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. SWC-77239, Abraham Gorenfeld, Temporary Judge. *)

In an action for personal injuries brought by a participant in a bicycle race for injuries suffered during the race, against the organizers of the race and the city in which the race was held, the trial court entered summary judgment for defendants based on a release which plaintiff had signed prior to entry in the race. (Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. SWC-77239, Abraham Gorenfeld, Temporary Judge. *)

* Pursuant to California Constitution, article VI, section 21.

The Court of Appeal affirmed. The court held that the release was not one involving a transaction affecting the public interest, and was therefore not invalid under Civ. Code, § 1668, making contracts which have exemption of anyone from responsibility for his own wilful injury to the person or property of another as their object against the policy of the law. Further, there were no triable issues of fact regarding whether the release form was clear and legible or whether the release form released defendants from the type of risk which caused plaintiff’s injuries. (Opinion by Hastings (Gary), J., + with Feinerman, P. J., and Ashby, J., concurring.)

+ Assigned by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.

HEADNOTES

CALIFORNIA OFFICIAL REPORTS HEADNOTES

Classified to California Digest of Official Reports, 3d Series

(1) Compromise, Settlement and Release § 8–Requisites and Validity–Preincident Releases. –Preincident releases that do not involve transactions affecting “the public interest” are not invalid under Civ. Code, § 1668, providing that contracts which have exemption of anyone from responsibility for his own wilful injury to the person or property of another as their object are against the policy of the law. The areas to consider to determine whether or not the public interest is affected are whether it concerns a business suitable for public regulation; whether the party seeking exculpation is performing a service of great importance to the public; whether the party holds himself out as willing to perform the service for any member of the public who seeks it, or at least for any member coming within certain established standards; whether, as a result of the essential nature of the service, in the economic setting of the transaction, the party invoking exculpation possesses a decisive advantage of bargaining strength against any member of the public who seeks his services; whether, in exercising his superior bargaining power, the party confronts the public with a standardized adhesion contract of exculpation, and makes no provision whereby a purchaser may pay additional reasonable fees and obtain protection against negligence; and whether, as a result of the transaction, the person or property of the purchaser is placed under the control of the seller, subject to the risk of carelessness by the seller or his agents.

(2) Compromise, Settlement and Release § 8–Requisites and Validity–Preincident Release–Participation in Organized Bicycle Race. –In an action for personal injuries brought by a participant in a bicycle race against the organizers of the race and the city in which the race was held, the trial court properly entered summary judgment for defendants based on a release which plaintiff had signed prior to entering the race. The release was not invalid under Civ. Code, § 1668, providing that all contracts which have for their object the exemption of anyone for responsibility for his own wilful injury to the person or property of another are against the policy of the law, since the preincident release did not affect the public interest.

(3) Compromise, Settlement and Release § 8–Requisites and Validity–Clarity and Legibility of Release Form. –In an action for personal injuries brought by a participant in a bicycle race against the organizers of the race and the city in which the race was held, the trial court properly granted summary judgment for defendants based on an otherwise valid preincident release which plaintiff had signed prior to entering the race, since no triable issues of fact existed regarding whether the release form was clear and legible. The release was not buried in a lengthy document or hidden among other verbiage. The type was clear and legible, and in light of the fact that the release had no other language to compete with, its size, three and one-half inches by eight inches, was appropriate.

(4) Compromise, Settlement and Release § 9–Construction, Operation and Effect–Release From Type of Risk Causing Injuries. –In an action for personal injuries brought by a participant in a bicycle race against the organizers of the race and the city in which the race was held, the trial court properly entered summary judgment for defendants based on a preincident release which plaintiff had signed prior to entering the race, since the otherwise valid release form released defendants from the type of risk which caused plaintiff’s injuries. The language was clear and unambiguous and the entities released from liability that could have arisen out of negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities mentioned in the release obviously included defendants, who were the promoters and sponsors of the event, and the city, which was an involved municipality.

COUNSEL: Edwin J. Wilson, Jr., and Jo Ann Iwasaki Parker for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Hagenbaugh & Murphy, Robert F. Donohue, Spray, Gould & Bowers, David T. Acalin, Cynthia Goodman and Robert Dean for Defendants and Respondents.

JUDGES: Opinion by Hastings (Gary), J., + with Feinerman, P. J., and Ashby, J., concurring.

+ Assigned by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.

OPINION BY: HASTINGS

OPINION

[*1464] [**429] On August 4, 1984, appellant was injured while participating in a bicycle race known as the Hermosa Beach Grand Prix. The race was organized and staffed by members and volunteers of the South Bay Wheelmen, Inc., a nonprofit affiliate of the United States Cycling Federation. The United States Cycling Federation is a nonprofit organization of amateur competitive cyclists which sanctions bicycle races and provides clinics and training for members to prepare them for racing events. The race was run on closed portions of the public streets of Hermosa [***2] Beach. The city had issued a permit for the event.

Appellant has brought suit against the South Bay Wheelmen, United States Cycling Federation and the City of Hermosa Beach alleging negligence in the preparation and maintenance of the course. Plaintiff was racing in the second to last race of the day and apparently fell when his bicycle hit [*1465] loose debris as he was crossing railroad tracks on the course. He slid into a loose guardrail and was injured upon impact.

Summary judgment was granted to respondents herein based upon a release admittedly signed by appellant prior to entering the race. The release is contained on the entry form which is titled “Southern California Cycling Federation Standard Athelete’s Entry Blank and Release Form.” The language of the release contained immediately below the title is as follows: “In consideration of the acceptance of my application for entry in the above event, I hereby waive, release and discharge any and all claims for damages for death, personal injury or property damage which I may have, or which may hereafter accrue to me, as a result of [**430] my participation in said event. This release is intended [***3] to discharge in advance the promoters, sponsors, the U.S.C.F., the S.C.C.F., the promoting clubs, the officials, and any involved municipalities or other public entities (and their respective agents and employees), from and against any and all liability arising out of or connected in any way with my participation in said event, even though that liability may arise out of negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities mentioned above.

“I further understand that serious accidents occasionally occur during bicycle racing: and that participants in bicycle racing occasionally sustain mortal or serious personal injuries, and/or property damage, as a consequence thereof. Knowing the risks of bicycle racing, nevertheless, I hereby agree to assume those risks and to release and hold harmless all of the persons or entities mentioned above who (through negligence or carelessness) might otherwise be liable to me (or my heirs or assigns) for damages.

“It is further understood and agreed that this waiver, release and assumption of risk is to be binding on my heirs and assigns.

“I agree to accept and abide by the rules and regulations of the United States Cycling [***4] Federation.” (Italics added.) The only remaining terms on the form are for information regarding the entrant such as: signature, name, address, phone number, date, age and class entered. The whole form is only eight inches wide and three and one-half inches high. The language of the release portion quoted above takes up approximately 40 percent of the form.

The facts presented to the trial court regarding the release were uncontradicted. Appellant admitted signing the release but complained he had no choice and that he had no chance to inspect the course himself because the organizers prevented the participants from going onto the course except during the race. He argues that the release form is void as against public [*1466] policy because it is a contract of adhesion and that the form itself is not sufficient to put a participant on notice that he is actually signing a release.

(1) (2) Tunkl v. Regents of University of California (1963) 60 Cal.2d 92 [32 Cal.Rptr. 33, 383 P.2d 441, 6 A.L.R.3d 693] sets forth the basic law regarding the validity of preincident releases. First of all, the case recognizes that [HN1] not all releases of liability are invalid under Civil Code section [***5] 1668. Those releases that do not involve transactions affecting “the public interest” may stand. The case sets forth six areas to consider to determine whether or not the public interest is affected: “In placing particular contracts within or without the category of those affected with a public interest, the courts have revealed a rough outline of that type of transaction in which exculpatory provisions will be held invalid. Thus [HN2] the attempted but invalid exemption involves a transaction which exhibits some or all of the following characteristics. [1] It concerns a business of a type generally thought suitable for public regulation. [2] The party seeking exculpation is engaged in performing a service of great importance to the public, which is often a matter of practical necessity for some members of the public. [3] The party holds himself out as willing to perform this service for any member of the public who seeks it, or at least for any member coming within certain established standards. [4] As a result of the essential nature of the service, in the economic setting of the transaction, the party invoking exculpation possesses a decisive advantage of [***6] bargaining strength against any member of the public who seeks his services. [5] In exercising a superior bargaining power the party confronts the public with a standardized adhesion contract of exculpation, and makes no provision whereby a purchaser may pay additional reasonable fees and obtain protection against negligence. [6] Finally, as a result of the transaction, the person or property of [**431] the purchaser is placed under the control of the seller, subject to the risk of carelessness by the seller or his agents.” (Italics added, fns. omitted, 60 Cal.2d at pp. 98-101.) Bearing these in mind, we will analyze this case.

1. Public Regulation

The transaction in this case was entry into a public bicycle race organized by private nonprofit organizations. While bicycles generally are regulated to the extent they are subject to motor vehicle laws, the organized racing of bicycles is not the subject of public regulation. Neither the South Bay Wheelmen nor the United States Cycling Federation are subject to public regulation.

2. Is This a Service of Great Importance to the Public

The service provided here was the organization and running [***7] of competitive bicycle races for members of the organizers and the public. The race organizers [*1467] obtained the necessary permits; laid out the course; manned the course; obtained sponsors; and advertised the event. This is very similar to the organization and sponsorship of the numerous 10-kilometer and marathon running events that have blossomed since the mid to late 1970’s. However, herein, the races were divided into different classes. Appellant was riding in an “open” public event. Without such organization and sponsorship, those that desire to enter bicycle racing would undoubtedly have no chance to do so under organized settings. Therefore, there is no doubt but that respondents offer a public service. However, does it measure up to the public importance necessary to void the release.

In Tunkl v. Regents of University of California, supra, 60 Cal.2d 92, the question was whether or not a public hospital provided a service of great public importance. The question was answered in the affirmative. The question was also answered in the affirmative regarding escrow companies in Akin v. Business Title Corp. (1968) 264 Cal.App.2d 153 [70 Cal.Rptr. [***8] 287]. In Westlake Community Hosp. v. Superior Court (1976) 17 Cal.3d 465 [131 Cal.Rptr. 90, 551 P.2d 410], the Supreme Court held that hospitals, and the relationship between hospitals and physicians, were sufficiently important to prevent an exculpatory clause from applying to a doctor suing a hospital based upon hospital bylaws. In Vilner v. Crocker National Bank (1979) 89 Cal.App.3d 732 [152 Cal.Rptr. 850], the court found that the practice of night deposits was of great public importance regarding the banking industry and its customers so that an exculpatory clause in a night deposit agreement was unenforceable. Also, common carriers provide a sufficiently important public service that exculpatory agreements are void. ( Rest.2d Contracts, § 195, com. a, p. 66.)

Measured against the public interest in hospitals and hospitalization, escrow transactions, banking transactions and common carriers, this transaction is not one of great public importance. [HN3] There is no compelling public interest in facilitating sponsorship and organization of the leisure activity of bicycle racing for public participation. The number of participants is relatively minute compared [***9] to the public use of hospitals, banks, escrow companies and common carriers. Also, the risks involved in running such an event certainly do not have the potential substantial impact on the public as the risks involved in banking, hospitals, escrow companies and common carriers. The service certainly cannot be termed one that “is often a matter of practical necessity for some members of the public.” ( Tunkl v. Regents of University of California, supra, 60 Cal.2d at p. 99.)

3. That the Service Is Open to Any Member of the Public.

It appears that anyone with a bicycle and the entrance fee who desires to enter the event can do so under standards established by the organizers.

[*1468] 4. The Economic Setting and “The Essential Nature of the Service.”

Item 4 seeks to measure the relative bargaining strengths of the parties. However, [**432] its prefaced by the words “the essential nature of the service.” (60 Cal.2d at pp. 99-100.) This ties in with item 2 above. The service provided herein can hardly be termed essential. It is a leisure time activity put on for people who desire to enter such an event. People are not compelled to enter the event [***10] but are merely invited to take part. If they desire to take part, they are required to sign the entry and release form. The relative bargaining strengths of the parties does not come into play absent a compelling public interest in the transaction.

5. Superior Bargaining Power and Standardized Adhesion Contract.

As set forth in item 4, this is not a compelled, essential service. The transaction raises a voluntary relationship between the parties. The promoters and organizers volunteer to hold a race if the entrants volunteer to take part for a nominal fee and signature on the entry and release form. These are not the conditions from which contracts of adhesion arise. Therefore, this item is not applicable.

6. The Provision of Control.

Compared to the patient who has placed himself in the exclusive control of the hospital in Tunkl, or the passenger who sits on a public conveyance, no such release of control exists here. Appellant retained complete control of himself and his bicycle and at any time could have dropped out of the race. Respondents had no control over how appellant rode his bicycle or approached the area in question except as to the general [***11] layout of the course.

Except for item 3, appellant’s situation does not fall within the guidelines set out in Tunkl. (60 Cal.2d at p. 92.) This situation does not present a transaction affecting the public interest. Therefore, there is no proscription for the release contained in the entry and release form herein. The trial court correctly relied upon the case of McAtee v. Newhall Land & Farming Co. (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 1031 [216 Cal.Rptr. 465].

(3) (4) Finally, no triable issues of fact exist regarding whether the release form is clear and legible or whether the release form released respondents from the type of risk which caused appellant’s injuries. As previously indicated, the entire form is only three and one-half inches by eight inches and the only printing on the form other than the incidental information relating to the competitor is the release language. It is not buried in a lengthy document or hidden among other verbiage. The type is clear [*1469] and legible and in light of the fact it has no other language to compete with, its size is appropriate. The language is clear and unambiguous and the first paragraph concludes with “even though that liability [***12] may arise out of negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities mentioned above.” The entities mentioned obviously include the South Bay Wheelmen who were the “promoters and sponsors” of the event, the United States Cycling Federation and the City of Hermosa Beach, “any involved municipalities.”

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment is affirmed.

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Lloyd v. Bourassa, 2002 Me. Super. LEXIS 132

Lloyd v. Bourassa, 2002 Me. Super. LEXIS 132

C. Gary Lloyd, Plaintiff v. Tom Bourassa, Sugarloaf Mountain Corp., and United States Cycling, Inc. d/b/a National Off-Road Bicycle Association, Defendants

Civil Action Docket No. 01-CV-039

Superior Court of Maine, Hancock County

2002 Me. Super. LEXIS 132

August 20, 2002, Decided

August 21, 2002, Filed and Entered

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Affirmed by, Remanded by, Sub nomine at Lloyd v. Sugarloaf Mt. Corp., 2003 ME 117, 2003 Me. LEXIS 131 (Sept. 25, 2003)

JUDGES: Ellen A. Gorman.

OPINION BY: Gorman

OPINION

ORDER

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 22, 1995, C. Gary Lloyd applied for membership in “USCF . NORBA . NCCA.” After filling in some identifying information on the first page of the application form, Lloyd placed his signature on the second page, under a section entitled “Acknowledgment of Risk and Release of Liability.” That section contained the following language:

Please accept this as my application for membership and a USCF, NORBA and/or NCCA license.

I acknowledge that cycling is an inherently dangerous sport in which I participate at my own risk and that the United States Cycling Federation, Inc. is a non-profit corporation formed to advance the sport of cycling, the efforts of which directly benefit me. In consideration of the agreement of the USCF to issue a license to me, hereby on behalf of myself, my heirs, assigns and personal representatives, I release and forever discharge the USCF, its employees, agents, members, [*2] sponsors, promoters and affiliates from any and all liability, claim, loss, cost or expense, and waive and promise not to sue on any such claims against any such person or organization, arising directly or indirectly from or attributable in any legal way to any negligence, action or omission to act of any such person or organization in connection with sponsorship, organization or execution of any bicycle racing or sporting event, including travel to and from such event, in which I may participate as a rider, team member or spectator.

On August 11, 1995, with his NORBA membership in hand, Lloyd traveled to Kingfield, Maine to participate in a mountain biking event sponsored by the Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation known as the Widowmaker Challenge. At Kingfield, Lloyd signed the Official Entry Form, which included the following language under the heading of “Athlete’s Entry & Release Form 1“:

I fully realize the dangers of participating in a bicycle race and fully assume the risks associated with such participation including, by way of example, and not limitations, the following: the dangers of collision with pedestrians, vehicles, other racers and fixed or moving objects; the [*3] dangers arising from surface hazards, equipment failure, inadequate safety equipment and weather conditions; and the possibility of serious physical and/or mental trauma or injury associated with athletic cycling competition.

I hereby waive, release and discharge for myself, my heirs, executors, administrators, legal representatives, assigns, and successors in interest (hereinafter collectively “successors”) any and all rights and claims which I have or which may hereafter occur to me against the sponsors of this event, the National Off-Road Bicycle Association, the promoter and any promoting organization(s), property owners, law enforcement agencies, all public entities, and special districts and…. through or by which the events will be held for any and all damages which may be sustained by me directly or indirectly in connection with, or arising out of, my participation in or association with the event, or travel to or return from the event . . . .

I agree, for myself and successors, that the above representations are contractually binding, and are not mere recitals, and that should I or my successors assert my claim in contravention of this agreement, I or my successors shall [*4] be liable for the expenses incurred (including legal fees) incurred by the other party or parties in defending, unless the other parties are financially adjudged liable on such claim for willful and wanton negligence.

1 To avoid confusion, the “release” signed in June shall be referred to as the “Membership Release,” and the release signed in August shall be referred to as the “Event Release.”

Lloyd registered to participate in both the cross-country race and the downhill challenge. While completing a mandatory practice run on August 11, 1995, Lloyd was involved in a collision with another participant, Tom Bourassa.

On August 10, 2001, Lloyd filed suit against Bourassa, Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation, and United States Cycling Federation d/b/a National Off-Road Bicycle Association, asserting negligence claims against all three. Soon thereafter, Lloyd learned that he had failed to name the appropriate corporate defendant, and filed a motion to amend the complaint. Over objection, that motion was granted, [*5] and U.S.A. Cycling, Inc. replaced United States Cycling Federation d/b/a National Off-Road Bicycle Association.

In their Answers, both Sugarloaf and U.S.A. Cycling responded that Lloyd’s claims were barred by the releases quoted above. In addition, both asserted Counterclaims against Lloyd for breaching the terms of the releases. Both demanded Lloyd be held liable for any expenses they incurred in defending his suit.

On January 25, 2002, Lloyd filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings with respect to Defendants’ Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses of Release and Waiver. Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation opposed that motion and filed its own Motion for Summary Judgment on March 11, 2002. U.S.A. Cycling also opposed the plaintiff’s motion, and filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on April 11, 2002. All of the motions requested that the court review the language of the releases and determine whether and how it affected the outcome of this suit. A hearing on all three motions was held on July 3, 2002. Any findings included below are based upon the properly submitted affidavits and statements of material fact. Specifically excluded from that category is the affidavit form Attorney [*6] Greif.

DISCUSSION

1. Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

The plaintiff argues that he is entitled to judgment on the defendants’ counterclaims and on their affirmative defenses of release and waiver because “the release, 2” by its terms, does not apply to U.S.A. Cycling, does not apply to the facts of this case, does not protect the defendants from their own negligence, and is unenforceable as contrary to public policy.

2 Plaintiff did not address the language of the Membership Release in his motion.

In considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court is required to accept all of the responding party’s pleadings as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Judgment is only appropriate if the responding party can prove no set of facts that would entitle it to relief. The plaintiff has failed to meet that burden.

Applicability to U.S.A. Cycling

In support of his first assertion, Lloyd argued that, because the Event Release does not mention U.S.A. Cycling, [*7] that defendant is not within the category of potentially released entities. With its response to this motion, U.S.A. Cycling filed an affidavit by Barton Enoch to establish that NORBA, a named sponsor of the Widowmaker, was the off-road division of U.S.A. Cycling, Inc. The clear language of the Entry Release covers sponsors, including U.S.A. Cycling d/b/a NORBA.

As mentioned above, Lloyd applied for membership in the United States Cycling Federation (USCF) and NORBA in June 1995. Soon thereafter, USCF merged into a new corporation, U.S.A. Cycling, Inc, that assumed all of its rights and responsibilities. By signing the Membership Release, Lloyd released U.S.A. Cycling, Inc. from responsibility for any accidents that might occur during his participation in any race events it sponsored.

Definition of Event

Lloyd has argued that the strictly construed language of the Event Release does not cover accidents that occur during the training run. In support of this argument, he has cited Doyle v. Bowdoin College, 403 A.2d 1206 (Me. 1979.) In that case, the Law Court said “releases absolving a defendant of liability for his own negligence must expressly spell out [*8] ‘with the greatest particularity’ the intention of the parties contractually to extinguish negligence liability.” Doyle, at 1208. Contrary to the plaintiff’s assertions, the language of the Event Release does precisely that:

I hereby waive, release and discharge for myself, my heirs, executors, administrators, legal representatives, assigns, and successors in interest (hereinafter collectively “successors”) any and all rights and claims which I have or which may hereafter occur to me against the sponsors of this event, the National Off-Road Bicycle Association, the promoter and any promoting organization(s), property owners, law enforcement agencies, all public entities, and special districts and properties . . . . through or by which the events will be held for any and all damages which may be sustained by me directly or indirectly in connection with, or arising out of, my participation in or association with the event, or travel to or return from the event . . . . (emphasis added)

All parties have agreed that the training run was a mandatory part of the event. To interpret the Event Release in such a convoluted fashion that it excludes a mandatory part of the [*9] event from the term “event” defies logic and is contrary to the intent of the parties as demonstrated by the plain language of the release. Hardy v. St. Clair, 1999 ME 142, 739 A.2d 368.

Public Policy

Although releases of liability are “traditionally disfavored,” in Maine that disfavor has resulted in strict interpretation rather than prohibition. Doyle v. Bowdoin College, Id. The cases cited by plaintiff in support of his contrary argument are from other jurisdictions and do not accurately describe the law in Maine. When asked to consider the issue raised here, both Maine state courts and the First Circuit have consistently enforced the language of releases. See, e.g., Hardy v. St. Clair, 1999 ME 142, 739 A.2d 368; McGuire v. Sunday River Skiway Corp., 1994 WL 505035 (D.Me.)(Hornby, J.), aff’d 47 F.3d 1156 (1st Cir. 1995). Despite his reference to a “contract of adhesion,” Lloyd was not compelled to sign either release. He chose to sign both because he wanted to participate in an inherently risky sport. He is free to make such choices, but must also accept responsibility for what happens as a result [*10] of that choice.

For the reasons stated above, plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied.

2. Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment

The Law Court has addressed motions for summary judgment on many occasions:

In reviewing a summary judgment, we examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonprevailing party to determine whether the record supports the conclusion that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the prevailing party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. (citation omitted) In testing the propriety of a summary judgment, we accept as true the uncontroverted facts properly appearing in the record. (citation omitted)

Champagne v. Mid-Maine Med. Ctr., 1998 ME 87, P5, 711 A.2d 842, 844. The issue is not whether there are any disputes of fact, but whether any of the disputes involve a “genuine” issue of “material” fact. See Rule 56(c). After reviewing the record provided with these standards in mind, the court must conclude that there are no genuine issues of disputed fact.

Both Lloyd and the defendants agree that Lloyd was required to complete a practice run in order to participate [*11] in the Widowmaker Challenge. All of them agree that Lloyd signed both releases before he took that mandatory run, and all agree that he was involved in a collision with another bicyclist during that run. As was discussed above, the practice run and any problems encountered during it are covered by the terms of the releases Lloyd signed. The Membership Release contains express language releasing claims arising from negligence. The Entry Release contains express language describing the types of accidents or dangers covered by the release, including “the dangers of collision with … other racers.” The collision between Lloyd and Bourassa was precisely the type of accident contemplated by the parties and waived by Lloyd in both releases.

Lloyd has failed to refer to any evidence in the record that might support his theory that that the Event Release should be seen as a substitution or novation of the Membership Release. Without such evidence, the court may not presume that the parties intended that one contract be substituted for the other.

Lloyd has asserted that the reference in the Event Release to an exception for “willful and wanton negligence” precludes summary judgment. However, [*12] no such tort has yet been recognized in Maine, so no jury could be asked to determine whether the defendants had acted with willful or wanton negligence. That exception is inapplicable in this jurisdiction. In addition, that language refers only to the portion of the Release that discusses the defendants’ right to recover expenses, including legal fees. On the record presented, there are no material issues of disputed fact concerning the language of the releases.

U.S.A. Cycling was a sponsor and Sugarloaf was a promoter of the race. As a matter of law, the court finds that the mandatory practice run was included within the language of the Releases, that the releases are clear and unambiguous, and that the accident Lloyd claims falls entirely within the types of harms contemplated by the parties at the time the releases were signed. There is nothing left to be litigated on either plaintiff’s Complaint against defendants U.S.A. Cycling and Sugarloaf, or on their Counterclaims against him.

For the reasons stated above, the court finds that the releases signed by Lloyd individually and collectively bar any civil action against either U.S.A. Cycling, d/b/a NORBA or against Sugarloaf for [*13] the injuries Lloyd allegedly sustained on August 11, 1995. Summary judgment on plaintiff’s Complaint is granted to U.S.A. Cycling, d/b/a NORBA and to Sugarloaf. In addition, summary judgment against Lloyd on their Counterclaims is granted to both U.S.A. Cycling, d/b/a NORBA and. Within thirty (30) days, counsel for these defendants shall submit proof of expenses, including attorney fees, incurred in defense of this action.

ORDER

Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied. The motions for summary judgment filed by defendants U.S.A. Cycling and Sugarloaf are granted. Judgment is granted to those defendants on Counts II and III of plaintiff’s amended complaint.

DOCKET ENTRY

The Clerk is directed to incorporate this Order in the docket by reference, in accordance with M.R.Civ.P. 79(a).

DATED: 20 August 2002

Ellen A. Gorman

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