Decision concerning bicycle race clarifies Illinois release law.

Hellweg v. Special Events Management, 956 N.E.2d 954; 2011 Ill. App. LEXIS 725; 2011 IL App (1st) 103604; 353 Ill. Dec. 826

Court looked at whether the risk that caused the injury to the plaintiff was listed in the release.

USA Cycling

The facts in this case are pretty simple. The plaintiff was a participant in a cycling raceon a closed course. A closed course in cycling means that no cars or pedestrians are on the course. The cyclists do not have to worry about traffic laws or hitting someone on a closed course.

While practicing for the race, the plaintiff hit a minor on a bicycle who got on the course. The plaintiff had signed the 2009 USA Cycling Event Release Form, which is required before being allowed to race. The plaintiff filed his claim and the defendants, twelve of them, including the minor he hit, moved to dismiss the case based on the release.

The trial court dismissed all twelve defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

Summary of the case

There are several interesting facts in this case that were not discussed in the appeal that stood out. In the group of twelve defendants, one was the business that put on the race; five were employees and/or agents of the business; one was the city were the race was held and one was a hospital, as well as the minor and his mother.

It is unclear what the claims against the city and the hospital where, however, it appears from the decision that all the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed including those claims. The mother and the minor were all dismissed. The release is the “usually” USA Cycling release, which did not identify the hospital or city individually or in the people protected by the release.

… RELEASE FROM LIABILITY THE ORGANIZERS OF THIS EVENT AND USA CYCLING, INC. (USAC), ITS ASSOCIATIONS AND THEIR RESPECTIVE

English: 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Stage...

AGENTS, EMPLOYEES, VOLUNTEERS, MEMBERS, CLUBS, SPONSORS, PROMOTERS AND AFFILIATES (COLLECTIVELY ‘RELEASEES’)….

The second major issue is the event organizer, and all of these people relied on the USA Cycling Release to protect them. The release is a general release that does not cover anyone, specifically except USA Cycling. It has no jurisdiction and venue class to speak off and does not cover any specific issues of the individual courses. If you are running an event that has something different from the normal race, different type of course, participants, etc. that is something that you would want to make sure you have covered. The court even pointed out how important those issues were in the release. In this case, the USA Cycling release did cover the issues generally, which gave the plaintiff the basis for his appeal.

The plaintiff argued that since the minor on the course was not something that was ordinary in a cycling race like this, he could not envision that was a risk he was accepting when he signed the release. He argued it could not be foreseen that the defendants would fail to close the course.

The court found that the phrase “ANY AND ALL CLAIMS ARISING FROM THE [DEFENDANT’S] OWN NEGLIGENCE.” was sufficient to protect the defendants from the suit. The court also said the test of the issue was not whether or not the risk was foreseen by the defendants but whether the broad language of the agreement would allow the court to say the risks were contemplated by the release.

“[A] myriad of factors, which are either obvious or unknown, may singly or in combination result in unexpected and freakish racing accidents. The parties may not have contemplated the precise occurrence which resulted in plaintiff’s accident, but this does not render the exculpatory clause inoperable. In adopting the broad language employed in the agreement, it seems reasonable to conclude that the parties contemplated the similarly broad range of accidents, which occur in auto racing.

In coming to this decision the appellate court reviewed the way Illinois reviews a release. As in the majority of the states, releases are valid. They are not favored and construed against the person requesting protection by the release. However, if a release must be given fair and reasonable interpretation.

The court then when through the three issues that void releases in Illinois.

[A]bsent fraud or wilful and wanton negligence, the contract will be valid and enforceable unless:

(1) there is a substantial disparity in the bargaining position of the two parties;

(2) to uphold the exculpatory clause would be violative of public policy; or

(3) there is something in the social relationship between the two parties that would militate against upholding the clause.

The releases or ways to void a release in Illinois are no different than in the majority of other states that have been discussed here before. The court went on to explain the specifics required for a release to be enforceable in Illinois:

An exculpatory clause, to be valid and enforceable, should contain clear, explicit, and unequivocal language referencing the types of activities, circumstances, or situations that it encompasses and for which the plaintiff agrees to relieve the defendant from a duty of care. In this way the plaintiff will be put on notice of the range of dangers for which he assumes the risk of injury, enabling him to minimize the risks by exercising a greater degree of caution. The precise occurrence which results in injury need not have been contemplated by the parties at the time the contract was entered into. It should only appear that the injury falls within the scope of possible dangers ordinarily accompanying the activity and, thus, reasonably contemplated by the plaintiff.”

This section is a little different from most decisions about releases. The specific language I’m speaking to is “should contain clear, explicit, and unequivocal language referencing the types of activities, circumstances, or situations that it encompasses and for which the plaintiff agrees to relieve the defendant from a duty of care.…” Many courts mention that the injury was caused by a risk specifically set forth in the release. Here the court said that a release must set forth those risks.

This is a specific issue I push. I believe in doing this for more than a requirement by the courts. 1. If the release is thrown out for any reason, the document may still be used as proof of assumption of the risk. 2. If your guests read the release, it may help them understand the risks or self-filter from the activity.

The court also looked at the argument of the plaintiff, that the risks that caused his injury were not foreseeable and dismissed that argument. The court stated the language stating the release covered all claims arising from the defendants negligence was broad enough to warn the plaintiff of the risks.

So Now What?

This is a great case that is easy to read if you are working in Illinois in preparing a release for your business or activity.

This is also an added point to make sure your release identifies the risks of your activity to warn the guests of what may befall them.

If you are creating, running or the owner of an event that is “sanctioned” so that everyone who attends has signed someone else’s event, has your own release created. You need to make sure that you and your employees, volunteers, etc. are protected from the unique or different risks of your event. The perfect example of this would be any race above 8000 feet. At that level, there are increased issues with altitude. A normal race would not cover that because those issues could only occur in Colorado. However, that is specifically an issue that someone from sea level could argue was an issue that you failed to warn them about and could not prove you had warned them because you had not had them sign a release which reviewed the risks.

Furthermore, let people know that nothing is perfect. No matter how high the fence, how much police or protective the barriers, people will find a way to get on the course, sneak on the hill or break into your program.

Better to waste an extra sheet of paper having guests sign a release than reams of paper to defend a lawsuit.

For General Information on Releases see:

Release/Waivers: The basics, the very basics!

Releases 101

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

States that do not Support the Use of a Release

What is a Release?

For specific articles about releases and specific activities see:

Connecticut court works hard to void a release for a cycling event

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

Gross Negligence beats a release…but after the trial

Maine upholds release in a mountain bike race and awards defendants costs and attorney fees

Michigan court upholds release in a climbing wall accident where injured climber sued his belayer for his injuries

Ohio Appellate decision upholds the use of a release for a minor for a commercial activity.

PA court upholds release in bicycle race.

Poorly written release gave the plaintiff’s the only chance they had to win

Release stops suit for falling off horse at Colorado summer Camp.

Releases are legal documents and need to be written by an attorney that understands the law and the risks of your program/business/activity and your guests/members/clientele.

Texas makes it easier to write a release because the law is clear.

Tough fight on a case, release used to stop all but one claim for a CO ski accident

Wrong release for the activity almost sinks YMCA

For more articles on the issues of cycling see:

Connecticut court works hard to void a release for a cycling event

Good Release stops lawsuit against Michigan bicycle renter based on marginal acts of bicycle renter

How to fight a Bicycle Product Liability case in New York. One step at a time.

New York Decision explains the doctrine of Primary Assumption of the Risk for cycling.

PA court upholds release in bicycle race.

Release for training ride at Triathlon training camp stops lawsuit

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

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Denver Final Ride of the USA ProChallenge needs Volunteers. It is a great experience! Sign up today

Have you been watching the USA Pro Cycling Challenge? It is amazing and it is right here in Colorado! BikeDenver will be at the Finish in Denver and we would love to have you join us. We are seeking volunteers from 2pm – 5pm to help with our Bike Parking. It is a great way to be part of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on its final day in Colorado!

Description: DSC_0175

If you do not have a BikeDenver t-shirt one will be provided to you to wear while volunteering on Sunday.

For more information on Stage 7 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge click here

To sign up to volunteer click here

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Description: Stage-7-Start-Finish

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Amgen Tour of California Slects 2012 teams

sixteen teams selected to compete in 2012 amgen tour of california

World Class Field Assembled for America’s Premier Cycling RaceSet for May

Levi Leipheimer winning Stage 5 of the Amgen T...

Image via Wikipedia

LOS ANGELES (March 13, 2012) – Race organizers have named the 16 teams, including some of the world’s best international and domestic squads, to compete in the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, which will take place May 13 to 20. Comprised of United Cycling International (UCI) Pro, Pro Continental and Continental squads, the 16 world class teams chosen to participate in the 2012 race will include Olympic hopefuls and Tour de France contenders representing more than 20 countries, giving fans around the world a preview of what is to come in July in both France and London.

Since the inaugural race in 2006, the Amgen Tour of California has consistently drawn the world’s best cycling talent while growing to become one of the most important races on the international calendar. In 2012, the race will play an even more significant role as it will be where top competitors test themselves in preparation for the Tour de France and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games taking place in London this summer.

As previously announced by race presenters AEG, the 2012 Amgen Tour of California will start in Santa Rosa on May 13 and travel more than 750 miles throughout some of California’s most majestic and iconic highways, roadways and coastlines before the final stage on May 20 when the race will start in Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive and finish at L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles.

The 16 elite teams include the newly restructured RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, whose roster includes Amgen Tour of California defending champion Chris Horner, Jens Voigt and current U.S. National Road Race Champion, Matthew Busche who will compete against a field that includes the No. 1-ranked team in the world, Omega Pharma – QuickStep, featuring three-time Amgen Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer and Tom Boonen; Garmin-Barracuda, featuring Amgen Tour of California veterans Dave Zabriskie and Tom Danielson; and 2011 Tour de France champion BMC Racing including veteran cyclist and fan favorite George Hincapie and one of the fastest rising stars in cycling today, Tejay van Garderen. Also, competing in California for the seventh consecutive year will be the Rabobank Cycling Team, featuring Laurens Ten Dam and Luis Leon Sanchez. Liquigas-Cannondale is set to compete as well, featuring American cyclists, Ted King and Timothy Duggan, as well as Peter Sagan, who has taken multiple stages in previous editions of the Amgen Tour of California. Competing in California for the first time will be the Australian GreenEDGE Cycling Team, who plan to bring Luke Durbridge and Robbie McEwen. AG2R La Mondiale is also on the roster, featuring Nicolas Roche and Rinaldo Nocentini.

The 2012 Amgen Tour of California roster includes the following 16 teams:

UCI ProTeams

  • Rabobank Cycling Team (NED)
  • Garmin- Barracuda (USA)
  • RadioShack-Nissan-Trek (LUX)
  • Liquigas-Cannondale (ITA)
  • Omega Pharma – QuickStep (BEL)
  • AG2R La Mondiale (FRA)
  • GreenEDGE Cycling Team (AUS)

UCI Professional Continental Teams

  • Team Spidertech Powered By C10 (CAN)
  • UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team (USA)
  • Project 1t4i (NED)
  • Colombia-Coldeportes (COL)

UCI Continental Teams

  • Team Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA)
  • Bissell Pro Cycling (USA)
  • Team Exergy (USA)
  • Bontrager Livestrong Team (USA)

“These 16 teams represent the most prestigious field of talent ever to compete in our race and we are honored to have them join us for the seventh edition of the Amgen Tour of California,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports. “Cycling fans will see some favorite and familiar faces back in California this May, as well as a few new teams who will be racing with us for the first time. We look forward to presenting another impressive race for fans around the world.”

There are a total of 11 teams returning to the Amgen Tour of California for 2012, including AG2R La Mondiale (FRA); BMC Racing Team (USA); Rabobank Cycling Team (NED); Garmin- Barracuda (USA); RadioShack-Nissan-Trek (LUX); Omega Pharma – QuickStep (BEL); Liquigas-Cannondale (ITA); Team Spidertech Powered By C10 (CAN); UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team (USA); Team Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA) and Bissell Pro Cycling (USA).

“Amgen Tour of California has always been a first class event, with great courses, amazing organization, and incredible fans,” said Chris Horner, Amgen Tour of California’s defending champion.

“This year’s event looks to be the best ever, with an even more challenging route and a roster of 16 of the best teams in the world. I’m looking forward to coming back to defend my title – it promises to be a fantastic eight days in California!”

“The Amgen Tour of California is always a big goal for our team,” said Jonathan Vaughters, CEO, Slipstream Sports and Director Sportif, Team Garmin-Barracuda. “The Amgen Tour of California is one of the premier races in the U.S. and one we take a lot of pride in. Every year, the competition is intense, the crowds get even bigger, and this year will be no exception. We’re very excited to get back to California and we hope to give fans plenty of reasons to cheer.”

Teams new to the Amgen Tour of California roster include the newly formed GreenEDGE Cycling Team (AUS); Project 1t4i (NED); Colombia-Coldeportes (COL) Team Exergy (USA); and Bontrager Livestrong Team (USA).

“We are thrilled to ride the Amgen Tour of California in our debut season,” said Shayne Bannan, General Manager, GreenEDGE. “It’s a great race and a fantastic event. It’s real priority for us to bring a strong team to California and the riders really want to go there and make their mark for GreenEDGE. There are a lot of races that stand out on the calendar and the Amgen Tour of California is one of those we don’t want to miss. Having it as Robbie McEwen’s last race, will make it extra special for us as an Australian team.”

In addition to the pro cycling teams confirmed for the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer® team will also be returning, traveling with the race from start to finish to celebrate cancer survivors and raise awareness about the free support services available to people affected by cancer from the four non-profit Breakaway from Cancer partner organizations.

“At Amgen, we are excited for our seventh Amgen Tour and impressed by the caliber of the cycling teams joining the field this year,” said Stuart Arbuckle, vice president and general manager, Amgen Oncology. “We are even more excited about how Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer initiative has taken off since we launched it in 2006, the inaugural year of the Tour. This year we will host Breakaway Mile events and recognize Breakaway from Cancer Champions in four host cities: Santa Rosa, Livermore, Clovis and Los Angeles, and our Breakaway from Cancer partner organizations will join Amgen to host our Breakaway from Cancer tent in the festival area in every finish city.”

For more information about the teams competing in the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, please visit the official race website, www.AmgenTourofCalifornia.com. For more information about Breakaway from Cancer, visit breakawayfromcancer.com.

About the Amgen Tour of California

The largest cycling event in America, the 2012 Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race, presented by AEG that challenges the world’s top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course from May 13-20, 2012. In a 2011 poll conducted by CyclingNews.com, the Amgen Tour of California was voted the fourth best race in the world, and the No. 1 race in America.

About AmgenAmgen discovers, develops, manufactures, and delivers innovative human therapeutics. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen was one of the first companies to realize the new science’s promise by bringing safe, effective medicines from lab to manufacturing plant to patient. Amgen therapeutics have changed the practice of medicine, helping millions of people around the world in the fight against cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, bone disease and other serious illnesses.

With a deep and broad pipeline of potential new medicines, Amgen remains committed to advancing science to dramatically improve people’s lives. To learn more about our pioneering science and vital medicines, visit http://www.amgen.com. Follow us on www.twitter.com/amgen.

About AEG

AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Company, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Home Depot Center, Sprint Center, The O2, NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE and Best Buy Theater Times Square; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), two Major League Soccer franchises, two hockey franchises operated in Europe, management of privately held shares of the Los Angeles Lakers, the ING Bay to Breakers foot race and the Amgen Tour of California cycling road race; AEG Live, the organization’s live-entertainment division, is a collection of companies dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring and a variety of programming and multi-media production. For more information, visit AEG today at www.aegworldwide.com.

About Breakaway from Cancer®

Founded in 2005 by Amgen, Breakaway from Cancer® is a national initiative to increase awareness of important resources available to people affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship. Breakaway from Cancer is a collaboration between Amgen and four nonprofit partner organizations: Prevent Cancer Foundation, Cancer Support Community (formerly known as The Wellness Community), Patient Advocate Foundation, and National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. These organizations offer a broad range of support services complementing those provided by a patient’s team of healthcare professionals. For more

information, please visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com or follow us @BreakawayCancer on Twitter.

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