Right now on Amazon, for $18.95, you can buy a large neon yellow sign with bold black lettering that that reads: “Not responsible for cars or personal property lost or stolen or for injury to persons, car or personal property on premises.” Just imagine, for less than $20, you can insulate yourself from all liability to anyone for anything. Why doesn’t everyone have one? Attempting to avoid blame or responsibility is nothing new. As my husband has aptly stated, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. But can individuals and businesses avoid responsibility for the harm they cause by simply posting a sign or having folks sign a broadly-worded release?
The simple, but perhaps not terribly satisfying, answer is: it depends. For instance, in the case of a landowner posting a sign on their property claiming no responsibility, the case will certainly turn on more than the sign. For instance, the status of the injured person on the land will be the first issue. Was the person a trespasser or someone who had been invited, either expressly or by implication, to come onto the property? For example, when you go into McDonald’s to buy a Big Mac, the company has implicitly invited you to do that. They want you there and you have a higher legal status than someone who is trespassing on a private farm. If the injured person was hurt by some form of criminal activity on the property, did the landowner know or should the landowner have known that criminal activity was likely given past incidences on or in the same general vicinity of the property.
With respect to releases and waivers, there is a tension between people having the right to make their own contracts vs. allowing people to avoid responsibility for their mistakes and negligence. The Tennessee Supreme Court has set forth a number of non-exclusive factors for determining whether a release or waiver can be used to avoid responsibility including:
- The relative bargaining power of the parties – courts are more likely to void a contract where a giant corporation with a dedicated legal department has presented a take-it-or-leave-it contract to an individual who needs, as opposed to wants, the service offered;
- The clarity of the language in the waiver – it should be clear and unmistakable regarding what the party signing it is giving up;
- Public policy and public interest considerations.
In short, if you have been injured or a family member has been killed, and you believe it was caused by someone’s fault or negligence, you should seek legal advice regardless of any signs that are posted or releases/waivers that have been signed. This is especially true in accidents involving children. Read here to learn more about that. And here is the good news: if you call us, it will not cost you a penny to learn whether we think you have a case or not, and it will cost you nothing out of pocket for us to help you with your case. We offer a free initial consultation, and we handle all accident cases on a contingency basis. So, you have nothing to lose by calling us to see if you really do have a case.
To find out if you have a case, simply give us a call at one of our three convenient Middle Tennessee locations:
As always, our award-winning attorneys will gladly come to you if you can’t come to us for any reason.