LBS Liability Waivers - What is this world coming to?
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  1. #1
    CHT
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    LBS Liability Waivers - What is this world coming to?

    Any of your LBS's requiring waivers?

    My wife went to pick up bikes we bought for our kids (4 and 7). Before they would let her leave the store with the bikes, she had to sign a 7 paragraph waiver, initialed in 5 spots by her. The waiver covered a wide variety of matters, from cycling is dangerous to acknowledging you should not ride at dusk or dawn without reflectors and reflective clothing. You also had to acknowledge that if you don't maintain the bike you are at risk.

    When my wife questioned the necessity of the waiver, the LBS owners response was (i) we will not let the bike go without your signature (and 5 initials), and (ii) all bike stores do this now. I've made many bike purchases over the years, including components and bikes recently at other bike stores nearby, and this has never come up.

    What's next, when you buy some trick lightweight wheels or carbon seatpost you'll need to sign a waiver? If I buy a tuna sandwich, will I need to sign a waiver acknowledging that it is dangerous to leave the sandwich out in the 90 degree sun for too long?

    My guess is that this LBS probably had a bad experience, even legal liability, from a sale gone bad. Nonetheless, shouldn't common sense prevail here? There are known risks we are all assuming?

    I'm not sure where I come out on the issue because I'm sympathetic to many of the local LBS owners who are struggling to stay open. On the other hand, most prudent owners have or should have insurance covering liability.

    I was just surprised and a bit dismayed that simple pleasures like buying your kids a bike now involve legal documents and waivers. Maybe I'm being naive.
    It's better to burn out, then to fade away....

  2. #2
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    Nothing surprises me when it comes to lawsuits

    Quote Originally Posted by CHT
    Any of your LBS's requiring waivers?

    I'm not sure where I come out on the issue because I'm sympathetic to many of the local LBS owners who are struggling to stay open. On the other hand, most prudent owners have or should have insurance covering liability.

    I was just surprised and a bit dismayed that simple pleasures like buying your kids a bike now involve legal documents and waivers. Maybe I'm being naive.

    I'm a lawyer. But, don't blame me -- I don't do any plaintiff's personal injury work.

    There are several things that could have motivated the waiver. The shop may have been hit with a suit over something. Or, the shop's insurance coverage may require the waivers as a condition of insurance. In any event, you can't blame a potential target in a litigious society from trying to protect himself or herself.

    Last year, I had a solo crash on a wet descent. More than one person (non-cyclists) asked if I was going to sue "someone." When I asked who that someone would be, one person said" "Well, couldn't you sue the shop that sold you that bike?" Most lawyers (including most plaintiff's lawyers I know) would not touch such a claim with a ten foot pole. But, the responses to my accident that I received say something about the mentality of many people in the United States.
    I try to be perfectly civil, until someone really pisses me off.

  3. #3
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    Surplus of lawyers?

    Or idiots on juries?

    I do know there was a sucessful lawsuit a few years back when a teenager got hit after dark. He sued the bike store and the bike manufacturer for not notifying him that you need lights on your bike after dark and won millions of dollars. He claimed that since the bike had reflectors on it he believed he could be seen in the dark. Duh?

    So now you have lawyers making money creating waivers and more lawyers looking for holes in waivers. And then you have the LBS and customers wondering what all this silliness is about.

    Quote Originally Posted by CHT
    Any of your LBS's requiring waivers?

    My wife went to pick up bikes we bought for our kids (4 and 7). Before they would let her leave the store with the bikes, she had to sign a 7 paragraph waiver, initialed in 5 spots by her. The waiver covered a wide variety of matters, from cycling is dangerous to acknowledging you should not ride at dusk or dawn without reflectors and reflective clothing. You also had to acknowledge that if you don't maintain the bike you are at risk.

    When my wife questioned the necessity of the waiver, the LBS owners response was (i) we will not let the bike go without your signature (and 5 initials), and (ii) all bike stores do this now. I've made many bike purchases over the years, including components and bikes recently at other bike stores nearby, and this has never come up.

    What's next, when you buy some trick lightweight wheels or carbon seatpost you'll need to sign a waiver? If I buy a tuna sandwich, will I need to sign a waiver acknowledging that it is dangerous to leave the sandwich out in the 90 degree sun for too long?

    My guess is that this LBS probably had a bad experience, even legal liability, from a sale gone bad. Nonetheless, shouldn't common sense prevail here? There are known risks we are all assuming?

    I'm not sure where I come out on the issue because I'm sympathetic to many of the local LBS owners who are struggling to stay open. On the other hand, most prudent owners have or should have insurance covering liability.

    I was just surprised and a bit dismayed that simple pleasures like buying your kids a bike now involve legal documents and waivers. Maybe I'm being naive.

  4. #4
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    It's the old " You never told me that I can't ride at night without lights, after drinking" lawsuit.
    This has been going on for at least 7 years because of a million dollar lawsuit.
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  5. #5
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    Angry Money talks, so just say no.

    My LBS offered that to me when I was purchasing 3 bikes for myself and my family. I declined to sign any of it, asking the manager, "do you want my signature on the waiver or on the charge card?" He preferred to take my money...

  6. #6
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    reverse it on them

    You could always turn it around on them and require them to sign a waiver stating that they have set up the bike properly and have checked the torque setting on all critical fastenings and that they have certified calibration checkups done regularly on their torque wrenches and air pressure gauges.


    The shop I'm currently helping at part-time does a waiver of sorts, basically it assures that the customer has been told the basics of how to shift and brake, and what to check for if problems come up. The form also has a list of the items the mechanic is supposed to check and a place for the mechanic to initial and sign showing that the pre-sale setup of the bike was checked and completed. Sort of a two-way waiver. If the shop in this topic does not also have something like that showing that the bike was set up to some minimum level of safety and performance, then that shop needs to update their waiver process.

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  7. #7
    CHT
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    Quote Originally Posted by treebound
    You could always turn it around on them and require them to sign a waiver stating that they have set up the bike properly and have checked the torque setting on all critical fastenings and that they have certified calibration checkups done regularly on their torque wrenches and air pressure gauges..
    Funny you mention this. The waiver was really just an acknowledgment of common sense items...I was more surprised with the requirement to initial and sign. If they had handed me the waiver and said "please sign to acknowledge you received this waiver" it would have been much more customer friendly.

    The other thing I noticed is that nowhere did it absolve the LBS for liability for poor bike prep and assembly..and I wouldn't waive this. However, if you are asking me to simply state that I realize the risks of being an idiot and driving in the dark without lights, blindfolded or whatever...I don't think its necessary, but I'm ok with the concept. I don't think it's necessary because being an idiot should be obvious to a jury and the law generally. Unfortunately it isn't (BTW, I also am a semi-practicing attorney, FWIW).

    It wasn't worth making a stink about or not signing. Every so often I ride with the owner's husband who is the co-owner, so I'll ask him for the details. I would have if I'd been at the store with my wife.

    The approach, however, was all wrong from a business perspective and making your customers feel comfortable.
    It's better to burn out, then to fade away....

  8. #8
    Nat
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHT
    Any of your LBS's requiring waivers?

    My wife went to pick up bikes we bought for our kids (4 and 7). Before they would let her leave the store with the bikes, she had to sign a 7 paragraph waiver, initialed in 5 spots by her. The waiver covered a wide variety of matters, from cycling is dangerous to acknowledging you should not ride at dusk or dawn without reflectors and reflective clothing. You also had to acknowledge that if you don't maintain the bike you are at risk.

    When my wife questioned the necessity of the waiver, the LBS owners response was (i) we will not let the bike go without your signature (and 5 initials), and (ii) all bike stores do this now. I've made many bike purchases over the years, including components and bikes recently at other bike stores nearby, and this has never come up.

    What's next, when you buy some trick lightweight wheels or carbon seatpost you'll need to sign a waiver? If I buy a tuna sandwich, will I need to sign a waiver acknowledging that it is dangerous to leave the sandwich out in the 90 degree sun for too long?

    My guess is that this LBS probably had a bad experience, even legal liability, from a sale gone bad. Nonetheless, shouldn't common sense prevail here? There are known risks we are all assuming?

    I'm not sure where I come out on the issue because I'm sympathetic to many of the local LBS owners who are struggling to stay open. On the other hand, most prudent owners have or should have insurance covering liability.

    I was just surprised and a bit dismayed that simple pleasures like buying your kids a bike now involve legal documents and waivers. Maybe I'm being naive.
    Blame our sue-happy society, not the shop. Common sense has little to do with liability any more. Even if the shop has liability insurance, one suit would increase their rates. Two suits would make them "uninsurable." I'd have just signed the stupid waiver and bought the bikes.

  9. #9
    CHT
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nat
    Blame our sue-happy society, not the shop. Common sense has little to do with liability any more. Even if the shop has liability insurance, one suit would increase their rates. Two suits would make them "uninsurable." I'd have just signed the stupid waiver and bought the bikes.
    She did just sign the waiver. I agree 100% with your post. It is a sad state of affairs though.
    It's better to burn out, then to fade away....

  10. #10
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    Checklist for Sales Person

    Quote Originally Posted by CHT
    Any of your LBS's requiring waivers?

    The waiver covered a wide variety of matters, from cycling is dangerous to acknowledging you should not ride at dusk or dawn without reflectors and reflective clothing. You also had to acknowledge that if you don't maintain the bike you are at risk.
    My LBS has such a waiver. Not sure if it requires initials or not but as I was standing at the register buying a track cog (for my bike that has no brakes!) the salesman was reading the paragraphs with the customer. I thought it was a good idea as it makes sure the sales person covered all the appropriate items. The BMX guy at the shop may need the reminder to show the customer how a quick release works.

    Experienced cyclists sometimes take for granted all the things we know about riding. In addition to the liability/insurance issue the checklist is somewhat educational. It also allows avoids the "you didn't tell me" customer (or their lawyer) coming back to the shop.

    I found the one item interesting as the person was buying a bike for their kid "you acknowledge that the bike you chose is oversized for the rider and against our recommendation you chose to purchase it". Helps with the issue of the kid showing up at some ride and one of us cycling experts asking what idiot put you on that oversized bike?

    So after reading the waiver were you signing away any rights or simply acknowledging what experienced cyclist already know, or take for granted?

    Edit: Customer Service - For the cycling newbie the salesman was reading through each item in a caring/educational way. For me, I spent 10 times as much on my bike and they just pointed where to sign. Appropriate approach in both situations.

  11. #11
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    CHT's perspective -- that the "waiver" was basically an acknowledgment of common sense items -- is exactly right. Waivers are unenforceable as contracts, but they are evidence that the consumer was informed about the risks of this, that, or the other. The seller was trying, anyway.
    I don't think that it's such a terrible idea to have a purchaser of a product aknowledge the risks of using the product. Although liability concerns no doubt motivated the move, it really does go under the category of education. I don't know about the case discussed about the night riding, but common sense is in the eye of the beholder. Apparently, if it is accurate (and almost always there is more to the story than what makes urban legend status), there was a jury of plain ol' folks who believed that a plaintiff that was reasonably uninformed enough to injure himself. This should not be so astounding in a country where 70% of the people believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.

    Years ago, my firm took a case (I wouldn't have taken it, by the way) where a guy swears he was never told how quick release skewers worked. The front wheel bounded off one day, and he had the facial scars to prove it. He was a college graduate, and didn't seem like a dumbsh*t, and I honestly believe that he didn't know how they worked. We ended up settling for a fairly nominal amount. A lot of these stories sound more reasonable as a lawyer when you're only hearing one side -- I promise you, no lawyer around here takes a case that he believes is meritless but that he can shake someone down for. It doesn't work that way.

    Lousy business practice? I don't know. What is the basis for the offense taken, really? That you already know the risks?

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by CHT
    She did just sign the waiver. I agree 100% with your post. It is a sad state of affairs though.
    If you've ever rented skis they make you sign all kinds of BS as well...plus if you bring in equipment that is too old they will not work on it claiming liability issues.
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  13. #13
    53T
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    There is hope

    I heard on the news this morning that some lady just lost her lawsuit against a baseball team and MLB. She was hit in the head by a foul ball. The court found that the risk of such an incident was sufficienty obvious that she had no claim.

    Of course, every ball game I have been to has a disclaimer on the back in fine print mentioning the risk of just such an injury. I guess in court that would be thrown out because it is written too small and not in an obvious location.

  14. #14
    CHT
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    Quote Originally Posted by bill
    Lousy business practice? I don't know. What is the basis for the offense taken, really? That you already know the risks?
    No offense, but signing and initialling in 5 places is overkill to me. An acknowledgment stating that I received the waiver and that the salesperson reviewed the content would be sufficient. Some customers will be scared away. I signed/initialed less when I leased a brand new car. Just my perspective as a customer.
    It's better to burn out, then to fade away....

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    Of course, every ball game I have been to has a disclaimer on the back in fine print mentioning the risk of just such an injury. I guess in court that would be thrown out because it is written too small and not in an obvious location.
    As it should be. A disclaimer on little tiny print on the back of a ticket is ridiculous and ineffectual. And that's not why the lady was kicked out of court. She was kicked out because it is objectively unreasonable to believe there is a system in place to protect you from foul balls -- you go to a ball park, and you can see that there is no system and that foul balls bounce into the stands all of the time.
    Actually, one unintended consequence of overdoing waivers and disclaimers is that the consumer comes to expect them if there is a danger even if the reasonable expectation is that, yeah, there probably is a danger. I have experienced it myself -- hmm, no warning that this is poison, must not be.

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    Personally, I think it is a good thing that shops are making a serious effort to teach parents of small children about safe use of bicycles. Some of this stuff isn't necessarily obvious to everyone, especially non-cyclists. The form you describe sounds more like a public eduction campaign than a liability waiver. A liability waiver would be disclaiming neglegence on the part of the bike shop (e.g., when assembling the bike). Sure, initialing 5 times is overkill, but it does force the parents to take the information seriously.

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    Although all releases say that they do, it is the law everywhere that I know of that you cannot disclaim liability for your own negligence. This is important to know for cyclists, who typically are asked to sign waivers before participating in events of all sorts, including charity rides, races, etc.
    In other words, the waiver acts as an information piece about expected and assumed risks, and your signing it acknowledges that you received the information. A waiver is not a contract that could prevent you from suing over a negligently caused risk, such as, for example, over a race where everyone assumes that intersections mid-race will be controlled. If the promoter fails to arrange to control the intersection, and twenty cyclists pile into it thinking that it's closed and are struck by a passing truck, I should have no problem suing the promoter for negligence despite the waiver.
    In your example, a bike shop never could obtain a waiver of its negligence liability, for example, for failing to attach a bolt for your brakes. Brake falls off, you can't stop, you can sue, and it wouldn't matter what that waiver said. Because that's not a normally, reasonably expected risk. If, however, for another exaple the waiver said, we try to set your bike up correctly, but we recommend returning in thirty days or six months or whatever to check, and you shouldn't rely on what we did beyond that time because stuff gets loose despite our reasonably best efforts, and then you don't come back, and something happens, I think that you may be stuck holding that bag.

  18. #18
    al0
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    I don't know is it good thing or not, but I know for sure that I never will buy anything in such shop (save emergency).

    Really any thing that acustoms people not to thinks on their own and waves their self-resopcibility is very bad and even destructive for society in a long run.

    Grown peoples shall not be considered as idiots by default, it is very offencive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by al0
    I don't know is it good thing or not, but I know for sure that I never will buy anything in such shop (save emergency).

    Really any thing that acustoms people not to thinks on their own and waves their self-resopcibility is very bad and even destructive for society in a long run.

    Grown peoples shall not be considered as idiots by default, it is very offencive.
    What ever happened to the letter "s"? Unfortunately, as some grown "peoples" have demonstrated over again, they can be generally assumed as idiots until proven otherwise. It is being defensive. I ride the same way - I assume the guy in the car does not know what he is doing, and so try to be prepared for a possible emergency. They bike shop is just doing the same thing - as others have said, companies get sued over really stupid things by grown people who were not assumed to be idiots.

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    The LBS must not be in California...

    ...because I was getting those CYA waiver lists over a decade ago here. An outgrowth of that noble West Coast pastime of litigation, justified or otherwise, no doubt.

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    I signed one 7 years or so ago...

    when I bought a Trek 2100 from a bike shop. It was part of the process and by signing I acknowledged the inherent dangers of cycling, etc.

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    not a waiver?

    Regardless of what it's called, that sounds less like a waiver and more like a notice or warning, and you're simply acknowledging you got the warnings. Doubt you waived anything. They are still responsible for their negligence and product liability.

  23. #23
    CHT
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougSloan
    Regardless of what it's called, that sounds less like a waiver and more like a notice or warning, and you're simply acknowledging you got the warnings. Doubt you waived anything. They are still responsible for their negligence and product liability.
    Whether it's a waiver or a warning, I'm not sure I need anyone to point out the obvious, and if the LBS feels the need to point out the obvious to the oblivious, then they must be trying to cover themselves for something. Especially if the sale is conditioned on initialling the paper in 5 places, then signing and dating the paper. Same as a waiver in certain (but not all) respects.

    Really, the two thoughts that struck me when starting this post were:

    1. Do other bike stores do this?
    2. Where does it end?

    There are a lot of inherently dangerous activities, many of which are just as obvious, which do not require a piece of paper to make you understand the risks. I understand sky diving, etc., but I don't sign a waiver to get into a car which, by many accounts, can be used as a deadly weapon.

    I'm not sure where I come out on the issue, but this discussion has been interesting (at least to me).
    It's better to burn out, then to fade away....

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    What is wrong with "covering" yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by CHT
    Whether it's a waiver or a warning, I'm not sure I need anyone to point out the obvious, and if the LBS feels the need to point out the obvious to the oblivious, then they must be trying to cover themselves for something. Especially if the sale is conditioned on initialling the paper in 5 places, then signing and dating the paper. Same as a waiver in certain (but not all) respects.

    Really, the two thoughts that struck me when starting this post were:

    1. Do other bike stores do this?
    2. Where does it end?

    There are a lot of inherently dangerous activities, many of which are just as obvious, which do not require a piece of paper to make you understand the risks. I understand sky diving, etc., but I don't sign a waiver to get into a car which, by many accounts, can be used as a deadly weapon.

    I'm not sure where I come out on the issue, but this discussion has been interesting (at least to me).
    Litigation in society is nothing new. Why would a bike shop not want to do what it can to make sure all it's employees follow standard procedure? I don't think anybody disagrees with the concepts you are being asked to agree to being informed about, so why make an issue of some initials? Did you get mad when you closed on your house? Do you refuse to fill out insurance paperwork at the doctor? We all bear the cost of lawsuits so if you help protect the shop owner you are helping yourself too.

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