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RespondingBack

Los Angeles, California, USA

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:04pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

http://blog.civiliansguidetolawyers.com/2013/01/24/sticky-business-non-negotiable-adhesion-contract-arms-race/

Let's see if this thread gets deleted.

I've noticed that more and more campgrounds give you a release to sign upon registering. The release is usually in tiny print, may be part of your registration form or a separate paper, and full of boilerplate legalese. As each campground will have a different release form, it's hard to know what it covers, especially subject to various state laws. Also, the release will not specify the exact claim you are releasing.

I can understand some rationale for a release, such as assuming the risk of using the swimming pool (know how to swim) without a lifeguard, hiking on trails in the boonies, using a kayak, etc. But let's take some of these releases to their extremes.

1. Release. The release may have you (and your estate, on behalf of your visitors, etc) release (waive) any claims you may have against the campground, owners, employees, etc. for:

A. Assumption of risk activities like using swimming pool, using weight equipment (and spraining a shoulder), hiking on trails, using ATVs, etc.

B. Negligence by the campground. For example, miswiring shorepower or the swimming pool so you get electrocuted, running a campground truck into your RV, not removing dead trees which fall on your RV, filling in a sinkhole and having you park on top of it, letting your credit card information and other personal information get posted all over the Internet, etc. Besides negligence, the release may try to cover other acts, perhaps far-fetched, like an ax-wielding employee (campground hires anybody), etc.

C. Contractual obligations. You waive any claim for reimbursement because there is no electrical, no hot water, nothing works, etc.

2. Hold Harmless, Defend and Indemnify

This is where the forms become really fun. The campground now turns you into their insurer. Not only have you released your claims against the campground, but you must defend the campground, insure their losses, etc., from anyone who files a claim against them--like:

A. You and Family Members

Despite signing the release, you sue anyways on the theory that the form is unenforceable as against public policy, an adhesion contract, etc. While part may be unenforceable, maybe the other parts of indemnity are not.

B. Your Invitees/Visitors

Your friends come and visit, and slip on the swimming pool decking which the campground employees just spilled oil. Your friend sues campground, and campground sues you to pick up the tab.

C. Your Own Insurance Company

So you slip and fall, and get your own health insurer to cover. Or the dead tree falls on your RV, and your RV insurer pays you.

Then, your insurance companies seek reimbursement from the campground. And the campground seeks their attorney fees, costs, etc., from you.

In addition, your insurance companies may be irked at you, saying you had no right to obligate yourself and your insurance companies under the campground form release (and maybe your insurance companies won't cover you).

D. Third Parties.

Somebody else sues campground, and campground thinks you should be responsible to defend them. For example, you are parked in the dry camping area and run your generator during the posted allowable times. Unbeknownst to you, there is a town ordinance prohibiting a certain noise at a certain time, and town fines campground big-time for this 100th violation on an escalating scale.

These forms may be compounded by mandatory arbitration (biased toward campground) and inconvenient state locale/jurisdiction. Different state laws will enforce these forms to various extents.

This is not just an issue with campgrounds. Other businesses (hospitals, docs, stores, repair, etc.) May have boilerplate fine-print release and indemnity type language which attempts to take away your rights and then turn you into their insurer.

How about this far-fetched example--a car repair shop botches up a brake job and you lose brakes and get into an accident and hit another car. Not only does the car repair shop expect to keep the brake repair payment, they expect you not to sue for the damage to you, your passengers, your car, but also to defend and insure them against the other car you hit.

Taken to the extreme, every business would have a form saying you waive all your rights against them, and agree to be the deep-pocket insurance company.

downtheroad

Pacific Northwest

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:09pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Too much to worry about. Too much to think about and too much stress for me.
RV'ing is suppose to be fun.

Gosh, I'm going camping and I'm going to relax and not worry about all this stuff.


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Jim Cindy

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:18pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Yep, RespondingBack, Thinking you need to give up the RV lifestyle and find something that interests you that has much less stress attached.
Just my opinion.


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rfryer

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:20pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Argumentative how enforceable it is, I've never read one. But give their lawyers credit for trying. I rarely stay in commercial campgrounds, though, so it's really not an issue to me.I wonder how the campgrounds would fare if people simply refused to sign or stay there?

Free Range Human

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I read the referenced blog page and while I agree that this is just another one of the outrages in this country regarding the legal system, I notice that there was no news story of one of these ridiculous hold-harmless "agreements" being enforced in court.

A one-sided "agreement" is immediately suspect, and I'd have to see a few of these actually stand up in court before I'd start becoming alarmed.

Campfire Time

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

So let me ask, you've actually seen these clauses in releases that you have signed? Or are these just suppositions?

Yes, some businesses are doing things like this. And yet, people will sue them anyway...


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BurbMan

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:39pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

These kinds of things are somewhat self regulating...if a business treated their customers like that they wouldn't be in business very long. But in today's litigious society every business needs to protect themselves from the ambulance chasers that sue for pain and suffering because somebody stubbed their toe on the pool step.

Also if something is illegal you can't override it with a contract. For example, most all local laws and/or state laws requires a public facility operating a pool to maintain compliance with electric and safety codes. If the CG owner miswires the pool and electrocutes a guest, they are still liable because they are in violation of the law. The CG can't escape the law just because the CG guest signed a waiver when they checked in.

Same with your ax-wielding employee example...it is illegal to wield an axe to threaten people, and me signing a waiver doesn't make it legal.

Maybe need to take some law classes before you lose any more sleep over this....


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soren

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:44pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

This became an issue when I was still in school and involved with a ski club. The ski area wanted a multi-page hold harmless contract, parents signed it. A student was injured, nearly fatally, due to a screw up by the ski company. It didn't take a good lawyer long to end up with a seven figure settlement. I would love to hear the opinion of a lawyer who currently deals with these type of issues.
I often wonder what would happen if you took a bit of time to sign your name in a manner that is nothing like your typical signature? Typically, the signing takes place with a desk clerk who is in a hurry, and just getting that step out of the way. If something does happen that is clearly the fault of the CG, how would it look in court, a year or two later? "Is this your signature?" No, it doesn't look like mine. "Is this document witnessed or notarized?" No. Hum, now what?

Ron3rd

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:50pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Attorney in So Cal here; Those are called "exculpation clauses" and don't work if they are negligent in any way. You can't "contract away" your own negligence.

Assumption of risk is another issue, but still does not work if the other party is negligent.


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camperpaul

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Posted: 05/08/14 02:52pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Campfire Time wrote:

So let me ask, you've actually seen these clauses in releases that you have signed? Or are these just suppositions?

Yes, some businesses are doing things like this. And yet, people will sue them anyway...


I have seen this kind of stuff (hold harmless, etc.) on a medical history form at a clinic where I went for a pre-employment physical exam.

I flicked my Bic® ...


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