George went to the Bakersfield Speedway to watch the auto races. He paid an extra admission fee and signed a liability waiver so he could sit on bleachers in the pit area close to the racetrack.
He observed that after the races, the pit area is opened to all attendees at no extra charge so they can view the racetrack up close and sit in the special bleachers.
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However, while George was sitting in the pit area bleachers and enjoying the auto races, for which he paid an extra charge, the bleachers collapsed. George was injured.
When George sued the racetrack owners for his injuries, he alleged the operators negligently erected and maintained the pit area bleachers that collapsed. But the racetrack owners pointed to the liability waiver release form that George signed before entering the pit area bleachers.
He acknowledged the racetrack pit area is a dangerous place where spectators could be injured or even killed by auto crashes, flying tires and fires.
However, George argued at the trial he agreed to assume the risk of injury from such causes by signing the release form, but he didn’t agree to assume the risk the bleachers where he was seated would collapse and cause injury.
If you were the judge would you rule George assumed the risk by signing the racetrack’s liability release form that the bleachers where he was seated would collapse?
The judge said no!
When George signed the liability waiver release form so he could view the auto races close to the track from the pit area bleachers, the judge began, he assumed the risk of his injury or even death from racing hazards.
“In order for a release of liability to be held enforceable against a plaintiff, it must be clear, unambiguous and explicit in expressing the intent of the parties, the act of negligence that results in injury to the releasee must be reasonably related to the object or purpose for which the release is given, and the release cannot contravene public policy,” the judge explained.
“But if a set of bleachers collapses as a result of defective construction or maintenance, there is no causal relation to the dangers caused by the race or observation activities regardless of whether the collapse occurs during the race,” he emphasized.
The liability release waiver form George signed did not protect the racetrack owners and operators from their liability for negligent maintenance of the bleachers, which caused George’s injuries, the judge ruled.
Based on the 2004 California Court of Appeal decision in Sweat v. Big Time Auto Racing Inc., 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 678.
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