Saturday, December 20, 2014

Disclaimers of Liability

Interesting case announced by the Oregon Supreme Court this week. A snowboarder who was paralyzed as a result of an accident at an Oregon ski resort was allowed to proceed with his lawsuit, despite a statement by the ski resort that it would not be responsible for any injuries "even if caused by negligence".

I have long believed that such disclaimers of liability have no legal effect whatsoever. The law of torts will decide if you are liable; you cannot avoid liability for your negligence by putting a statement to this effect out to your customers. I first became aware of this phenomenon when parking lot owners would provide you a ticket containing language that they are not responsible for any damage done to your car while it is on your lot.

The idea that this kind of disclaimer of liability would have any legal significance at all is ludicrous. I could put a sign on my car saying that "I am not responsible for any harm I do to you by my bad driving". Would anybody in their right mind believe that that kind of statement would have any legal effect? Of course not.

The fact is that we all owe a duty of care to others whom we encounter in our daily life. If our negligence causes them harm, then we are liable.

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