Are Liability Waivers Always Enforceable?
Some liability waivers seem to ask that you sign your life away just to become a member of a local gym. But what happens if you are injured due to the negligence of the gym? Are liability waivers enforceable in this instance, or can they be overridden?
Most of the time, yes, they are enforceable. Especially when the liability waiver you sign is very detailed, highlighting possible risks of using a particular facility or something of the sort. More broad ones, though, are tougher to enforce, because they do not always give detailed explanations of certain risks, or because they try to relieve a business owner of any and all liability when public policy would expect the business owner to continue to owe some duty of care to patrons.
The enforceability of a particular liability waiver will always depend on the specific circumstances of the situation. A liability waiver will generally be upheld under New Jersey law unless the waiver is the product of fraud/concealment/misrepresentation/duress, or if (1) the waiver is unconscionable or (2) enforcement of the waiver would violate public policy. New Jersey law also declines to enforce liability waivers that seek to limit liability for intentional or reckless conduct.
An experienced premises liability lawyer would have the highest chance of success finding a loophole in a document such as this and should be contacted as soon as possible following any kind of injury at an establishment that required you to sign one.
When Are Liability Waivers Not Enforceable In New Jersey?
Liability waivers are in some cases not enforceable. Take, for example, a case where you sign a liability waiver to go swim at a local pool. In the waiver, it states that the pool is not responsible for any injury or harm you sustain while on their premises. However, suppose that while going for a swim, you go underwater and cannot get back up – perhaps you are having a heart attack – and it is a family member or another member of the community that assists you out of the pool because the lifeguard is either not on duty, in between shifts, or is simply not paying any attention to the swimmers.
In this instance, the pool is more likely than not to be responsible, since the lifeguard was not watching the pool when the incident happened as he or she was clearly supposed to. Another example would be if the pool had a slide, and it was not properly maintained, and it completely broke apart while using it. In this example, a liability waiver is not going to be enforceable because the negligence is on behalf of the pool owners, not on behalf of the injured victim. But in order to hold the property owner financially accountable in a case like this, the injured victim would have to contact an experienced swimming pool accidents attorney to secure compensation on their behalf.
Related blog: Liability Concerns After A Swimming Pool Accident In NJ
Why Are Liability Waivers Enforceable?
In New Jersey, liability waivers are considered “contracts of adhesion.” A contract of adhesion is an agreement, usually a standardized form of agreement, that is presented to a party on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis with no opportunity for negotiating the terms of the contract. Although contracts of adhesion are looked upon skeptically, New Jersey law will uphold liability waivers unless unconscionable or the waiver violates public policy.
Factors that courts look at in determining whether a contract such as a liability waiver is unconscionable include:
- The subject of the contract
- The relative bargaining positions of the parties to the contract
- The degree of economic compulsion involved
- The public interests implicated by the contract
A contract such as a liability waiver may be found to violate public policy after balancing the public’s interest in the subject matter of the contract against the individual rights of the parties. For example, gyms typically require patrons to sign liability waivers in order to use the facilities. With gyms, the public’s interest is encouraging exercise and providing facilities for people to do so. In exchange for facilitating this public interest, gym owners are generally permitted to limit their liability to patrons who suffer injury ostensibly arising from the negligence of the gym owner or operator.
However, even this has its limitations; courts generally disfavor businesses transferring the redress of injury from the business owner to an innocent party or completely eliminating the duty of care that a business owner may owe to patrons. Courts also tend to find liability waivers that attempt to shield a business owner from any and all liability as in violation of public policy or unconscionable. In particular, courts have declined to extend the effect of liability waivers to claims that the business owner committed gross negligence, as opposed to ordinary negligence that might be covered under a waiver of liability.
Related blog: Are Property Owners Always Liable For Injury And Damages?
Contact a Irvington Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Case in New Jersey
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC represent clients injured in Edison, Woodbridge, Old Bridge, Piscataway, and throughout New Jersey. Call (908) 325-5571 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 1827 E. 2nd St., Scotch Plains, NJ 07076, as well as offices in Westfield, Newark, East Brunswick, Clifton, Cherry Hill, and Elizabeth.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.