Club Rides and Liability
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  1. #1
    i like wine, women & song
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    Question Club Rides and Liability

    Our club is experiencing some growing pains. Which is a good thing. We are adding some weekly rides. My question is, does your club have liability forms for its "Official" Club Rides and "Unoffical/Personal" Rides? Is this necessary?

    We have an official group ride from a LBS every monday. A club time trial every wednesday. I can see the need/logic for a waiver.

    What I am wanting to do, is organize an email list sent out every week for rides by club memebers that are available for other club members to do. Lets say club member Joe Schmoe is inviting members to do a long ride from his house on a saturday, John Doe, another club member is having a family ride earlier that week around the local park for parents and children. Do these "personal" rides by club members need a waiver? I hope not... what a pain.

  2. #2
    Misfit Toy
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    I just took a quick look at my clubs website. It looks like our membership application is a waiver form. Members don't sign one for each ride, although we do have a sign up sheet, for emergency numbers etc. Only non-members are required to sign a waiver on individual rides. (club website www.actc.org)

  3. #3
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    Signed "Waiver of liability" forms are really not worth the paper they are written on. Ask just about any civil attorney. They seem to give the oranization a "feel good" feeling. I've had extensive and detailed liability waivers drawn up for several "high-risk" competitions, and even the attorney that drew it up said that realisticly, they provide little to no liability protection for the organization.

  4. #4
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    [/QUOTE]Signed "Waiver of liability" forms are really not worth the paper they are written on. [QUOTE]
    Yes and no.
    In no state of which I'm aware (and state laws govern, and state laws can vary) do the waivers function as true waivers. A true waiver would constitute a contract blocking liability no matter what happens. Universally, I believe, the participant waivers you sign have no validity as contracts -- the general rule is that you can't contract away your remedy for someone else's negligence.
    But they do have a purpose that still can block liability. The waivers serve as notice to you (not that you needed it, but now you can't deny it) that the beverage you are about to consume is HOT. I.e, the sport has risks, bad risks, dangerous risks, uncontrollable risks, and you understand that the promoter is not insuring your safety against those risks.
    The other side of this, though, which I also believe is universal in this country (although the lines may be drawn in different places factually -- you see this, for example, in well-known ski areas vs. areas where skiing is a novelty, so that the lines may be drawn in different places for the risks you assume), is that the participant assumes the risk of known and acknowledged risks of the sport, but the participant does not assume risks easily controlled through reasonable measures. For example, in a race, you would not expect to encounter an uncontrolled intersection. If you did, and you were creamed, I have little doubt that your lawsuit would be successful despite your signature on a waiver (UNLESS the promoter said, dudes, that intersection is uncontrolled -- if you do it, you're on your own).
    A more fuzzy area is what I saw go down in our district two weeks ago. A race that is notorious for its crashes over years resulted in, this time, two very serious crashes with very serious injuries for a number of participants. So serious that they stopped racing after these two races. By general consensus, the course is not selective enough to conclude with anything but a massive field sprint, which is not bad in itself, but the yellow line rule was enforced up to 200 m from the finish, which is. I have no idea that anyone is going to do anything, but I can see a suit against the promoter on that theory having some validity. And if you were in neurological rehab a month later, you would think about it doing it -- I don't care who you are or how much you love racing.

  5. #5
    Squirrel Hunter
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    Ask Bob

    This would be a great questions for Bob Mionske who authors the Legally Speaking column at VeloNews.com

    If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to [email protected] Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column.

  6. #6
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    Not to put too fine a point on it, but, just because Bob Mionske has a column and I don't doesn't mean that his advice is any better. I've been doing tort law for eighteen years, and I've handled sport cases in several states. Which is no more than Mionske, I'm sure, but, I think, no less, either.
    Actually, I'm pretty sure that Mionske has done column on this, and this was approximately what he said. Because it's accurate.

  7. #7
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    Working with people in organizations

    Quote Originally Posted by bill
    ...just because Bob Mionske has a column and I don't doesn't mean that his advice is any better...
    I thought your comments were well written and answered the question well. Consistent with several discussions of waivers I have seen before.

    My suggestion was to give Kilofox a tool he could use in his organization in addition to the relevant information. I envision everyone sitting around at a club meeting and someone raising the waiver question. Kilo volunteers to do some research and post the question here. Next month he wanders into the meeting with a print out of this RBR thread. Accurate or not, it is just a posting on the internet and chances are whoever raised the waiver question initially will not have too much faith in it. Instead Kilo walks in with a column from VeloNews written by one of their regulars, it holds a bit more clout. Option three, Kilo walks in with your response on firm letterhead and you move up a few rungs on the credibility ladder above Bob. All three could contain the exact same wording, but the one on your letterhead or from VeloNews would be "better" for use at the club meeting. Think about the audience.

  8. #8
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    umm, umm, I was sort of pissy, wasn't I? Sorry, man. I was hungry and stuff. All better now.
    You're right, of course. Always goes over well for legal advice (just as good for medical), doesn't it?
    "Well, this guy on the Internet was saying . . . ."
    Always inherently credible.

  9. #9
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    Almost time to ride

    Quote Originally Posted by bill
    Sorry, man...
    No problem. Hey the weekend is almost here so we can all go riding. Yeah!

  10. #10
    johnny99
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    insurance

    All those waivers you see at cycling events and cycling clubs were probably written by their insurance companies. While they do not provide blanket immunity, they cover enough to at least make the insurance company comfortable. If your club is associated with a bike shop, check to make sure you are covered by the shop's insurance. Clubs can also get insurance from national cycling organizaitons like LAB and IMBA. These days, sports clubs really need liability insurance.

  11. #11
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    Yes and No

    This may surprise you, but liability forms for club rides are not required by law since it is open to the public and state and local laws concerning bikes, helmets, etc are governed by state and local laws. However, if your club makes it mandatory to wear helmets on a club ride, then your club is liable if someone gets hurt during the club ride regardless of if that person wears a helmet or not. When a club makes mandates seperate from state jurisdiction, then that club is now responsible for any actions within the ride in addition to whatever state/local laws there are.

  12. #12
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    Hmm. Where did you get this information from?
    If a club mandated helmets, particularly since they have no enforcement mechanism other than peer opprobrium, um, nothing. It means nothing.
    Liability waivers indeed are required by no one except perhaps your insurance carrier, who no doubt hopes that, even if legally ineffectual, they may discourage you from suing if you did get hurt. But one thing has nothing to do with the other. Liability waivers have nothing to do with being open to the public in any real sense, and a club's rules don't expand state law, which is the basis for tort liability. I say the last with a caveat -- if a club creates the impression that it is providing protection for you greater than state law mandates (and state law mandates virtually nothing for informal clubs anywhere, anyhow, regarding any particular duties of which I am aware unless an until the club undertakes broader duties), then you may have a theory against the club. This is not to say that mandating helmets creates even an obligation to make sure you wear a helmet; it's more the "we are stopping traffic at intersections" example. Then, if the club fails to stop traffic at intersections, the club could be liable. But the law, believe it or not, virtually never places an obligation on one to protect another from oneself. It may look like that sometimes, but that's not the law.
    Sometimes people think that the law is this arcane monster that makes juries give money away or something. It's not. The law almost always make very logical, reasonable sense. The problem usually comes in when fallible people try to apply it. Or, stated another way, when fallible people try to understand it.
    Last edited by bill; 04-23-2004 at 12:53 PM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bill
    Hmm. Where did you get this information from?
    If a club mandated helmets, particularly since they have no enforcement mechanism other than peer opprobrium, um, nothing. It means nothing.
    Liability waivers indeed are required by no one except perhaps your insurance carrier, who no doubt hopes that, even if legally ineffectual, they may discourage you from suing if you did get hurt. But one thing has nothing to do with the other. Liability waivers have nothing to do with being open to the public in any real sense, and a club's rules don't expand state law, which is the basis for tort liability. I say the last with a caveat -- if a club creates the impression that it is providing protection for you greater than state law mandates (and state law mandates virtually nothing for informal clubs anywhere, anyhow, regarding any particular duties of which I am aware unless an until the club undertakes broader duties), then you may have a theory against the club. This is not to say that mandating helmets creates even an obligation to make sure you wear a helmet; it's more the "we are stopping traffic at intersections" example. Then, if the club fails to stop traffic at intersections, the club could be liable. But the law, believe it or not, virtually never places an obligation on one to protect another from oneself. It may look like that sometimes, but that's not the law.
    Sometimes people think that the law is this arcane monster that makes juries give money away or something. It's not. The law almost always make very logical, reasonable sense. The problem usually comes in when fallible people try to apply it. Or, stated another way, when fallible people try to understand it.


    I'm not a lawyer and seems like you are well-versed in that arena. I don't actually know whether or not mandating helmets makes a club liable. But my friend told me long ago that there was a case in Cali about that and the jury ruled in favor of the prosectution, kid that got brain injury from an accident at a club ride. So, these are state laws, if I am not mistaken.

    My take, and maybe you can expound if this is wrong I don't know. Anyway, my understanding is that if a club mandates use of helmets, then the ride becomes a sanctioned event. And more liability falls on the ride organizers as far as safety. Sooo, if a rider gets injured on a club ride, then the club may be held responsible regardless of if that rider is wearing a helmet or not for the simple fact that now the courts view the ride as a sanctioned event. Anyway, I could be wrong, but if it is true then clubs really should promote the ride and say that helmets are highly recommended instead of making it a mandate.

  14. #14
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    But my friend told me long ago that there was a case in Cali about that and the jury ruled in favor of the prosectution, kid that got brain injury from an accident at a club ride. So, these are state laws, if I am not mistaken.

    My take, and maybe you can expound if this is wrong I don't know. Anyway, my understanding is that if a club mandates use of helmets, then the ride becomes a sanctioned event. And more liability falls on the ride organizers as far as safety. Sooo, if a rider gets injured on a club ride, then the club may be held responsible regardless of if that rider is wearing a helmet or not for the simple fact that now the courts view the ride as a sanctioned event.
    If a family entrusted their impressionable, wet behind the ears, stinky little kid on a club ride on the club's promise that they would make sure that the kid wore a helmet, then maybe, maybe there may be a case there. But just having a club rule that nobody rides with the club without a helmet, which is our club's rule, doesn't increase the club's liability by itself. The no-helmet, no-ride rule doesn't mean that anything is now "sanctioned," which really has no meaning by itself. There would have to be something else going on to create a duty to a rider, and it's not nearly as complicated or as technical as you may suspect.
    This is the law. If someone gets hurt, the question becomes -- did someone, anyone, have a duty to act reasonably to keep the injured person safe, and did that someone act unreasonably for another's safety in violation of that duty such that the other suffered a foreseeable harm.
    A club has no duty to you, generally. No civilian, non-officer of the peace American has a duty to protect any other American from harm. We generally have a duty, however, to refrain from acting unreasonably -- unreasonably being defined as actions that foreseeably would result in harm to another. I have no duty to Joe Blow generally. But if I'm driving a car, I have a duty to not be an idiot and run red lights and hit Joe Blow.
    If I host a club ride, I have a duty to not be unreasonably dangerous in hosting a club ride. No more, no less. How is that defined? Tough, really, to do, but I would have to say that the bar is pretty low. If my riders don't point out hazards -- unreasonable? Not admirable, but I would have a hard time saying that anyone has a negligence duty to point out hazards. As much as I would like to rely on others, I know that it's really me I need to rely on. And on and on and on. With helmets and the rest of it.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by bill
    If a family entrusted their impressionable, wet behind the ears, stinky little kid on a club ride on the club's promise that they would make sure that the kid wore a helmet, then maybe, maybe there may be a case there. But just having a club rule that nobody rides with the club without a helmet, which is our club's rule, doesn't increase the club's liability by itself. The no-helmet, no-ride rule doesn't mean that anything is now "sanctioned," which really has no meaning by itself. There would have to be something else going on to create a duty to a rider, and it's not nearly as complicated or as technical as you may suspect.
    This is the law. If someone gets hurt, the question becomes -- did someone, anyone, have a duty to act reasonably to keep the injured person safe, and did that someone act unreasonably for another's safety in violation of that duty such that the other suffered a foreseeable harm.
    A club has no duty to you, generally. No civilian, non-officer of the peace American has a duty to protect any other American from harm. We generally have a duty, however, to refrain from acting unreasonably -- unreasonably being defined as actions that foreseeably would result in harm to another. I have no duty to Joe Blow generally. But if I'm driving a car, I have a duty to not be an idiot and run red lights and hit Joe Blow.
    If I host a club ride, I have a duty to not be unreasonably dangerous in hosting a club ride. No more, no less. How is that defined? Tough, really, to do, but I would have to say that the bar is pretty low. If my riders don't point out hazards -- unreasonable? Not admirable, but I would have a hard time saying that anyone has a negligence duty to point out hazards. As much as I would like to rely on others, I know that it's really me I need to rely on. And on and on and on. With helmets and the rest of it.


    Don't get me wrong. I think that hemet use is a good thing, especially on these large group rides. I'm just basing this on the one case, and I'll see if I can dig up some more info, that a club may be held liable under certain circumstances.

    I think in the noted example, a club promoted a ride via flyers and other advertisements. I don't know totally what was on the flyers, but the wording said that helmets were mandatory, which was different from local laws. The ride was free. Now, at which point the courts decided that the ride was sanctioned, I don't know. Maybe its a combination of the fact that the ride was openly advertised as well as the helmet mandate on the flyer. Since then, this club has changed its non-USCF rides to say that helmets are highly recommended.

  16. #16
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    Well, I am interested to hear what happened in that case. You use the word "sanctioned," which, in this context, I guess means that something created the impression that someone was in charge. Under the right circumstances, I guess that could give the injured person a theory, although I'll bet that there was more to the story.
    What sometimes happens, too, is not that a club or whatever defendant actually loses a case. Sometimes all that happens is that the case goes some distance, the judge doesn't throw it out summarily,because judges usually don't like to do that before the jury gets a chance to hear the case, but, before the jury actually can render a verdict, the case settles, because the defendant doesn't trust the situation. Then, other people start worrying about the same sort of thing, even though there never really was any reason to panic.

  17. #17
    lyleseven
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    In most states there is no liability to a participant

    in a recreational sports activity. The rider assumes the risk of such injury. Intentional or wilfully reckless conduct is excepted. That is certainly the law in California. A club has very little to worry about for accidents involving its members or non-members under most all circumstances.

  18. #18
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    To the extent all my verbiage may have created any different impression, I agree. No duty generally, and the particular would have to be dadgum spectacularly particular.

  19. #19
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    My thoughts

    Selling spine implants I hear a term over and over....Informed Consent. Can you serve process by saying I did not know of the risk when your signature is on a document explaining these risk?

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