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Gyms are notorious for making their members sign “releases”. So are sports leagues and places that rent recreational equipment. But these releases don’t provide immunity for all injuries. In fact, they only provide immunity for injuries incurred under a narrow set of circumstances.

This point was illustrated by the Alaska Supreme Court in the case of Moore v. Hartley Motors. It held that despite signing a release of claims for “all bodily injuries and property damage arising out of participation,” a woman could still sue for an accident that occurred in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) training class.

In 2001 a woman sued the instructor of the ATV class, the owner of the property where the class was held and the creator the classes’ curriculum after she accidentally drove her ATV off the course and hit a rock that was hidden behind some tall grass.

The decision, made by the Alaska Supreme Court, stated that “the release does not discuss or even mention liability for general negligence. Its opening sentences refers only the unavoidable and in inherent risks of ATV riding, and nothing in its ensuing language suggests an intent to release [the defendants] from liability for acts of negligence unrelated to those inherent risks.”

There are two big points here: (1) releases are narrowly construed and (2) don’t pre-judge your claim–if a claim might exist, speak with an attorney…don’t pre-emptively dismiss your own case by saying, “I signed a release, I probably don’t have a claim.”

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Premises Liability / Slip & Fall.

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