New York Personal Injury Law Blog » assumption of risk, Legal Writing


February 14th, 2013

Another Legal Waiver (A little help here?)

You guys know how much I love legalese, right?

Last year I wrote a waiver for a half marathon trail race that was crowd-sourced a bit. It came out great, in my not-so-humble opinion.

I’m now doing another one for participation in my little running club. Any comments or suggestions are welcome. You can find a little background on the concept of assumption of risk for athletic events here.)

This is a draft of the document club members would have to sign…and if you know about a Legal Waiver Hall of Fame, please let me know:


Club Membership Agreement and Waiver

I’m reading this because legal waivers are incredibly exciting documents. It’s always fun to see how lawyers butcher English, making it incomprehensible to mankind. I’m looking forward, especially, to ALL CAPS, since I know that’s how these things roll.

I know, of course, that I have to read and sign this, because running in and volunteering for organized group runs, social events, and races are potentially hazardous activities. It’s possible that I could be injured or somehow squashed like a bug. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen, but life is unpredictable when you engage in athletics.

I’m smart enough to know that I shouldn’t participate in any club-organized events without being in appropriate physical shape. Doing otherwise would be stoopid.  With my John Hancock at the bottom, I certify that I’m medically able to engage in all activities associated with the club, that I’m in good health, and properly trained.  Yay me!

And because I want to participate, I agree to abide by rules established by the club, even if they don’t seem to make sense at first blush. This includes the right of any official to deny or suspend my participation for any reason whatsoever. I think this is what the lawyers mean when they say they don’t “always seem to make sense at first blush.”

I attest that I have read the rules of the club and agree to abide by them.  If I haven’t actually read the rules, and am just claiming that I have, this will be my problem.

Some of the risks associated with participating in club activities may include falls, contact with other participants, weather effects, traffic and the conditions of the road or trails, all such risks being known and appreciated by me. There might be, for example, bicycles, skateboards, baby joggers, roller skates/blades, dogs, and alligators. I realize that the lawyers just kinda tossed in the alligators to make sure I was still reading.

Sometimes, of course, there will be unexpected problems, deviations, and detours. Trail running in particular, may have risks that are unforeseen even by organizers.

Having now read this waiver, and being appreciative of the lack of ALL CAPS, I (and my heirs should I kick the bucket), waive and release NewRo Runners and all club sponsors, their representatives and successors (and anyone else a lawyer can dream up) from all claims of any kind arising out of my participation.  I also grant permission to all of the foregoing to use my photographs, motion pictures, recordings or any other record for any legitimate promotional purposes for the club.


Any suggestions regarding things that I left out, or ways to improve it, please let me know…


9 thoughts on “Another Legal Waiver (A little help here?)

  1. As a 40+ year jogger who is also a California plaintiff’s lawyer, you’ve really connected on this one! In all seriousness, the big issue that comes up here is whether the signator “unambiguously exempted” the releasee from liability for releasee’s negligence in the activity. Cohen v. Five Brooks Stables (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 1476, 1484. Assuming any similarity in your local law, you might want to mention that specifically.

  2. Am I crazy to wonder why these are necessary, and what evils they circumvent? What harms would befall a runner who didn’t sign one, as opposed to one who did? And as an officer of clubs that are constantly debating these bits of paper, do they actually work?

  3. @Dan

    The point isn’t really to get someone to waive claims, since in New York an event would no doubt be protected under the assumption of risk doctrine, but rather, to help educate the neophyte participant as to the expected risks that they might encounter.

  4. Excuse me for thinking education is not the primary purpose of these forms. For one thing, nobody reads them before signing. I can tell you non-lawyers argue about them constantly, but they think the purpose is to protect them against getting sued over their volunteer roles as club officers. There is a lot of confusion in this area.

  5. I love the concept and really enjoy your blog. I’m an avid diver, and throughout the years I’ve signed many waivers required by dive operators before letting me on the boat, giving me an air tank, etc. I always thought it would be funny to see a straightforward scuba waiver stating in plain language all of the nasty things (there are many) than can befall a hapless diver.

    • The best waiver I ever saw was a “test” for the rental of a jet ski. You had to watch a video and then answer basic questions regarding safety and operation and then sign it. These were not tests that got graded, of course, but where utilized to educate people about the foreseeable risks.

  6. It was many, many years ago (that’s what makes me an “old geezer”) that I belonged to the “Arizona Road Racers”. Ran my first half-marathon under their banner. The club was started, in point of fact, by a PI lawyer named Stephenson (Stevenson?) who habitually ran me to exhaustion when I tried to accompany him on a training jaunt. He and his pals were already on their second rehydration (read “beer”) by the time I limped in much later (once after 20 miles!).

    So I read your waiver (which, by the way, we did not have in those ancient days) from the perspective of running club experience.

    I believe the waiver is quite clear in its intent, but, alas, should it not have at least one Latin phrase, inter alia, just to make it more official? It would then, mutatis mutandis, be perfect, pro hac vice. See?

    (I was once dinged by management for including “mutatis mutandis” in an IT-type user manual, and this was even after the dawn of THE INTERNET when anyone could look it up in camera if required.)

  7. Again, I am seriously skeptical education has anything to do with this, other than on an abstract level. Just like warning labels, which we know have little to know effect in the consumer setting, where there is no enforcement power (as in an industrial setting.) They have a legal purpose, but not much else. And those of us who aren’t lawyers are hopelessly confused about that.