Just how magical are liability waivers and the paper they’re written on?

Just how magical are liability waivers and the paper they’re written on?

“...my participation in activities and/or use of such equipment may result in injury or illness including, but not limited to, injury, disease, fractures, partial and/or total paralysis, death.”

Sign me up for some of that!

Deriding the ridiculous language of liability waivers is a dinner table favorite, but are these forms really the get-out-of-jail-free card that we think they are? We’d love to don our powdered wigs and shout at you in Latin about the intricacies of legal liability, but we’ve promised Hollywood mockery here so Hollywood mockery is what you're gonna get.

And since celebrity injuries humanize our idols, there’s no better way for us to explain the limits of legal liability than by talking about pretty people hurting themselves.

Negligence: sometimes forgivable, sometimes epically idiotic

Would you believe that liability waivers can protect companies from being sued even when they make mistakes that lead to injury? Of course you would, you live in a country where a “musician” who calls himself 50 cent sued Taco Bell for joking that he should change his name to 79 cent.

That’s a true anecdote, and so is the story of Channing Tatum scalding his...swimsuit area with boiling water. During filming, the trailblazing male-stripper-turned-actor-who-plays-a-male-stripper poured what was supposed to be warm water into his wetsuit to keep himself from getting too cold. Unfortunately, in an act of “ordinary negligence,” the on-set assistant had prematurely set down boiling water and walked away.

That doesn’t exactly constitute the same level of negligence as, say, handing Channing a cup of water and saying, “Quick! Pour this down your pants before it cools down!” That would be gross negligence, and most waivers only manage to protect clients from the liability of ordinary negligence. Magic Mike didn’t take legal action, but he couldn’t have sued for anything more than a cup of cold water and some aloe vera anyway.

You get a legal standard! You get a legal standard! Everyone gets (different) legal standards!

Speaking of negligence, you might want to brush up on the concept before taking that out-of-state vacation. Defining negligence is already a murky issue, but in an effort to provide lawyers with plenty of job security, each state has a completely different definition of this important legal term.

For example, in 2010, a certain Ashleigh Johnson tried to sue the Jonas Brothers for “serious mental, emotional and physical injuries” sustained from a rowdy concert crowd by alleging that the security detail was incompetent and unprepared.

Well, in California gross negligence is defined as “an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.” Which is somehow a much stricter definition than Washington’s, where it is defined as: “the failure to exercise slight care...and does not mean the total absence of care but care substantially less than ordinary care.”

Right...maybe we do need the antique head covering and arcane legalese. The takeaway here: when dealing with liability, always enlist the help of a local lawyer

If it wasn’t drafted by a lawman, it probably won’t be recognized in court

In a story that’s slightly less unique than it sounds, tween sensation Justin Bieber reportedly requires visitors of his home to sign a waiver with a broad range of forbidden activities and liability stipulations. Presumably because of all the action figures and half-eaten pouches of pop rocks.

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine the internet darling got his liability waiver from the web or an ill-qualified legal authority. Were that the case, forms completed by guests wouldn't be worth anything more than resold autographs.

States across the nation have ruled that “overly broad and all-inclusive” liability waivers are not legally enforceable. While the Canadian pop star probably paid a hotshot lawyer to make sure everything was on the up and up, it helps us illustrate that without being tailored to a specific business with specific intent, liability waivers are nothing more than an assortment of frightening phrases.

At the end of the day, when Bieber is fast asleep cuddling his pet monkey, and Mr. Tatum is taking his first spin on the pole, there’s only one way to guarantee you’re managing liability correctly. To get the most out of these legal protections, regardless of whether you're the signer or provider, attorneys are the key to protecting yourself from boiling water, disgruntled concert-goers, and unruly house guests.

So if you’ve been injured and are overburdened with medical bills, lost wages, and mental trauma, we can help you. Call us today to begin discussing your case.