It seems these days that before you do anything, whether it’s renting a car or taking a cruise, you have to sign a mountain of paperwork signing away rights that you may not have even known you had. In Gillette v. All Pro Sports, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals explains that these and other types of waiver agreements must be sufficiently clear in order to be enforceable.
Ms. Gillette was injured in a go-kart accident at a facility in Orange City owned and operated by All Pro Sports. She sued the company for negligence, alleging that an All Pro employee increased the speed of the go-kart while she was using it. This, according to Gillette, caused her to lose control of the vehicle and crash.
A trial court granted the company’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, finding that Gillette waived her claims by signing a “waiver and release” form prior to using the go-kart. Among other provisions, the document stated that Gillette understood that the go-kart course contained curves that “require a degree of skill and responsibility to navigate safely” and that she had the necessary skill to operate the go-kart safely. She also acknowledged that she “could be potentially injured, disabled, or killed, whether by my own actions (or inactions) or the actions or inactions of another driver” and that she “freely and knowingly” assumed this risk. The form further stated that Gillette was agreeing to take “full responsibility for any claims or personal injury, death, or damage to personal property” related to her use of the go-kart.
The Fifth District reversed the ruling, however, finding that it was unclear whether the contract waived claims for the type of negligence Gillette alleged in this case. Specifically, Gillette alleged that it was an All Pro employee whose negligence caused the accident. The waiver and release, on the other hand, appeared to be limited to waivers of claims related to accidents caused by either Gillette’s own negligence or that of other drivers. The Court said it was unclear whether that waiver extended to alleged negligence by All Pro workers.
“Clauses that purport to deny an injured party the right to recover damages from another who negligently causes injury are strictly construed against the party seeking to be relieved of liability,” the Court said, citing its 2013 decision in UCF Athletics Association v. Plancher. Furthermore, the Court said it will only enforce the terms of a waiver that are so clear and understandable that an ordinary person is able to fully understand what it is that he or she is waiving. In this case, the Court said the waiver wasn’t sufficiently clear.
If you have been injured in an accident in Florida, it is important to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer in order to understand your rights and options. The South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine have vast experience bringing negligence claims on behalf of injured clients throughout the area, including in Boca Raton, Coral Springs and Pompano Beach. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, call our Ft. Lauderdale office for a free consultation.
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