We all often face releases or waivers of liability in our daily lives, whether as patrons of professional sporting events, participants in extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and skydiving, or any number of other activities. Frequently, we are required to sign a document before we are able to attend or participate in an event. Be sure to READ THE FINE PRINT before signing a waiver or release to verify that you are not excusing another party’s own negligence (carelessness) in the event you are injured. The law in Missouri refers to these phrases or clauses in contracts which release another party from future negligence as exculpatory clauses. If written correctly, and signed by you, this clause will exonerate the other party from their future negligence that causes you injury.
In Missouri, such clauses are disfavored. Therefore, the clause must be clearly and explicitly stated such that “there is no doubt that a reasonable person agreeing to an exculpatory clause actually understands what future claims he or she is waiving.” See Abbot v. Epic Landscape Productions a case from the Western District of Missouri Court of Appeals handed down in 2011. As a tip, if the word “negligence” is used in a waiver or release, that is a red flag to you that you likely should not be signing the document. In a recent decision from the Eastern District of Missouri Court of Appeals, a young snowboarder who was injured on the premises was denied his claim against the owner of the premises due to his signing of a waiver and release containing an exculpatory clause. See Guthrie v. Hidden Valley Golf and Ski, Inc., et al.
Although difficult to avoid the consequences of signing an exculpatory clause, you should seek legal representation to review your case given the strong public policy in Missouri in your favor.