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Tenth Circuit Upholds Validity of Liability Waiver After Rafting Accident

Posted in Firm News

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently released its opinion in a negligence lawsuit brought after a woman was tragically killed in a rafting accident. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s lawsuit must be dismissed because she signed a valid waiver form prior to embarking.

In the case, Espinoza v. Arkansas Valley Adventures, the plaintiff booked a family adventure through the Rockies that included a rafting trip and camping excursion. As the woman was rafting, their vessel unfortunately capsized. All of the other members of the raft were fished out of the water by staff members. However, the woman was swept up into a logjam and tragically drowned.

The woman’s son brought a negligence and fraud lawsuit against the company. The company responded with a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the family signed a valid waiver of liability. The lower court agreed that the waiver was valid and upheld their motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff then appealed to the Tenth Circuit, which agreed with the lower court, citing the validity of the waiver and policy concerns.

Validity of Waivers of Liability in New Mexico

Many people sign liability waivers without even reading the so-called “fine print” before engaging in a potentially dangerous activity. It is a common belief that even if these waivers are signed, there may be a way around them if an injury were actually to occur. However, as the above case illustrates, that is not always the case.

Waivers and releases of responsibility generally have two main purposes. First, the waiver or release is designed to limit or negate the responsibility of the business that is in charge of the activity, and secondly, it is designed to provide evidence that the organization informed the patron of the risks of participating in the event.

Although the above case exemplifies an instance in which the waiver was upheld, there are also many situations in which the release may be found to be invalid. For example, in order for the waiver to be valid, the injury that arose from the activity must have been because of a risk that was outlined in the waiver. Moreover, the waiver must be written in a manner that is in accord with other organizations providing the same services. Lastly, the liability or release must not violate any public policy or state laws.

States differ in how they allow the use of a release to be used, and New Mexico is one of three states in which a use of release is restricted. This means that although companies may be able to use the release to prevent litigation, this is not necessarily always the case.

Have You Been Injured Participating in an Outdoor Sport or Activity in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured participating in a pay-to-play activity, such as whitewater rafting, skiing, bungee jumping, or sky diving, it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney to discuss your rights and remedies. Business owners almost always have their patrons sign a release or liability waiver in these circumstances, so it is crucial that you contact an attorney to assist you in determining the validity of these waivers. A personal injury attorney at the Fine Law Firm can help you get the monetary compensation you deserve. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 505-243-4541 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

The Importance of Jury Instructions in New Mexico Civil Cases, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 7, 2016.

New Mexico Officials Urge Drivers to Recognize Risk of Holiday Drunken Driving, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2015.