Life is risky. People get hurt. And unfortunately people sue. Yes, we live in a litigious society. One common way to mitigate these risks is to have your customers sign a release of liability. Three cases involving releases have gone to the Alaska Supreme Court and all three releases failed to protect the business owner. But last Friday the Alaska Supreme Court finally upheld a release and provided business owners some guidance on how to draft a release. Here’s what they’re looking for:
- A release should list the general risks such as injury, death, and damage to property, then list specific risks such as falling, choking, the negligence of others, and inexperienced staff. You have to use your imagination and try to list as many risks you can think of.
- The release should include a waiver of claims of negligence using the word “negligence."
- The release should use clear, simple, and emphasized words. Bold or all caps lettering is not a bad idea.
- The release should identify risks that are unrelated to inherent risks. If you do a good job on item number one, then you’ll more than likely satisfy this requirement.
- The release should not imply standards of safety or maintenance that conflict with a release of negligence. In other words, you should highlight the fallibility of employees, equipment failure or malfunction, poor maintenance and the like. You should highlight that your staff might give inadequate warnings or instructions.
- The release can’t violate public policy. If you provide an essential service or are regulated by statute, then you might not be able to get a release.