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Spicing Up Eric Turkewitz's 'Waiver for a Trail Race'

I appreciate a good disclaimer. Not a "good disclaimer" in the sense that it fits in with all of the other, boring, ALL CAPS, exploding with legal jargon disclaimers, however. I really don't care about those. I like the disclaimers that waaaaay-too-bluntly tell you the risks of what you are about to do so that when you do it (you know you're going to do it anyway) and you get hurt/sued/swindled, you will be too embarrassed to go after the person or entity that issued the disclaimer.

I've already reproduced here one of the disclaimers in my Legal Disclaimer Hall of Fame, from the Nelson Rocks Preserve. The Nelson Rocks Preserve disclaimer, of course, contains awesomeness such as the following:

Rocks and other objects can fall from the cliffs. They can tumble down slopes. This can happen naturally, or be caused by people above you, such as climbers. Rocks of all sizes, including huge boulders, can shift, move or fall with no warning. Use of helmets is advised for anyone approaching the rock formations. They can be purchased or rented at Seneca Rocks. They won't save you if you get hit by something big or on another part of your body. A whole rock formation might collapse on you and squash you like a bug. Don't think it can't happen. ...

We do not provide supervision or instruction. We are not responsible for, and do not inspect or maintain, climbing anchors (including bolts, pitons, slings, trees, etc.) As far as we know, any of them can and will fail and send you plunging to your death. There are countless tons of loose rock ready to be dislodged and fall on you or someone else. There are any number of extremely and unusually dangerous conditions existing on and around the rocks, and elsewhere on the property. We may or may not know about any specific hazard, but even if we do, don't expect us to try to warn you. You're on your own. 

And so on. Sadly, the Nelson Rock Preserve disclaimer seems to have vanished from its website, leaving climbers and hikers naive to the fact that whole rock formations might collapse on them and squash them like a bug.

This week over at the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, Eric Turkewitz has asked his readers to crowd-source a new disclaimer he is crafting for a trail race he is organizing. His goal is to make it as readable as possible, and he is off to a great start. Since he is asking for input, however, I have channeled the spirit of the Nelson Rock Preserve disclaimer to try to help him out. My suggestions are in red below.

I realize that this trail has plenty of rocks, roots, stumps and other tripping hazards. There are two stream crossings with stepping stones. The trail is narrow at times and could be crowded as faster runners overtake slower ones. A faster runner might therefore knock you to the side, causing you to slam headfirst into a tree or impale yourself on a jagged root. There might be poison ivy, ticks, bugs, bees and other woodsy things you find in the great outdoors. (Is this a great waiver, or what?)

Wind and rain may create mud holes, fell trees and limbs and create hazards that race officials don’t even know about. Even if we detect a specific hazard, don't expect us to try to warn you. You're on your own. Vandals may swipe trail markings. You could get off course and run straight into a rifle firing range for all we know. Race officials may deliberately create extra hazards. Just for fun.

I’ve also been informed that there are a number of wooden catwalks, whose condition varies with their age and the weather. Those boards can become damaged in storms, or simply be jarred loose by other runners. They are also very slippery when wet. Your Nike WaffleTrainer VII could slip and cause you to fall and break your coccyx bone. I agree to stay in the center of these walks and will not pass while on them. I understand that I will have more than ample opportunity to pass other runners in safer spots. In other words, I agree to cool my jets on the catwalks.

I also understand that there are only three water stops, so it’s important to carry a water bottle and any food that I want. I realize that I could run out of water, get dehydrated, and months later a pile of my bones might be found on the trail like in cartoons.

But even though I might get hurt or lost, I want to compete in this race. I therefore release and discharge all race officials, volunteers, sponsors and municipalities, and I also release the rocks, roots, bugs, tree limbs that might poke my eyes out, and other stuff, dead or alive, gnarly or not, that might cause me to get seriously hurt.  I know that trail running is a high-risk activity.

By signing this form I certify that I am physically fit, responsible for my own actions, and have sufficiently trained for an event of this nature. In other words, I won’t sue any of the people or groups responsible for this race if I get hurt. And if I am under 18, then my parent or guardian is signing this release.

I agree to all of this even though it is written in plain English instead of stupid legalese.


Posted by Bruce Carton on March 30, 2012 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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