When one is participating in a sporting activity, there is a misconception that the participant assumes all risks in the sport. Rather, California law has created some exceptions to that rule.
The rules change when a release has been signed by the injured party. For example, when you join a gym.
California courts have seen many cases where a sports or recreation participant is injured and attempts to sue other participants and landowners for injuries.
Sports are easily identified as those like swimming, football, baseball, basketball, equestrian events, etc. Recreation activities have included rollercoasters, water skiing, snow skiing, motorcycle riding, etc. California Courts have concluded that the duty of care owed to co-participants in sporting activities allows careless conduct by co-participants since that is an inherent risk in many sports. The reason is that holding participants liable for injuries would discourage vigorous competition. The rule remains that those involved in a sporting or recreation activity do not have a duty to reduce the risk of harm that is inherent in the sport itself. In actuality, sports participants have a limited duty of care to co-participants. Where a co-participant may be held liable for another’s injuries, there must be a showing that one intentionally injures another or engaged in conduct that is so reckless as to be totally outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in the sport thereby increasing the risk in the activity. The Courts have reasoned further that by choosing to participate, one assumes the particular risks inherent in a sport, and a co-participant generally owes no duty to protect the injured participant from those risks.
The obligation of a business proprietor to call 911 California
law imposes on a proprietor of a facility open to the public, a duty to call 911. For example, when at a restaurant a patron was not feeling well and did not want to eat so they remained outside. Some gang members arrived,
a fight ensued in the parking lot, and the patron was stabbed. Employees inside the restaurant could clearly see what was occurring, but they did not call 911. The patron sued the restaurant’s owner. The California Supreme Court held that the defendant restaurant had a duty to call 911.
In that case, the restaurant owner relied on the general rule that “No one is required to save another from a danger not of his own making.” So, for example, if a passerby sees someone collapse with a heart attack on the sidewalk, the passerby has no legal duty to do anything. But the situation is the opposite for businesses.
The California Supreme Court has determined that businesses such as restaurant proprietors have a ‘special relationship’ with their patrons or invitees, and that this relationship imposes a duty to take reasonable measures to protect such persons against foreseeable criminal attack. The Court especially focused on the lack of a burden to the defendant, stating: “Placing a 911 call is a well recognized and generally minimally burdensome method of seeking assistance.”
The Court held that as a general matter, a proprietor’s special-relationship-based duty to its patrons or invitees includes an obligation to make such a call, or to take other similar minimal measures.
What is the effect of an injured person who has signed a release to participate in the sporting activity?
California Civil Code section 1668 states: “All contracts which have for their object, directly or indirectly, to exempt anyone from the responsibility for his own fraud, or willful injury to the person or property of another, or violation of law, whether willful or negligent, are against the policy of the law.”
Therefore, a liability release may be invalid if it affects the public interest, i.e., if the release is against public policy.
There are a multitude of factors that determine whether the release affects the public interest. Our lawyers will guide our clients through this process.
Another way of invalidating a liability release is by showing that the defendant acted with “gross negligence”. California case law clearly distinguishes between the concepts of ordinary negligence and other, aggravated forms of misconduct such as gross negligence and recklessness.”
Thus, even if a liability release were otherwise valid, it will not apply if the defendant acted with gross negligence. “Gross negligence” is defined as an “extreme departure” from what a reasonably careful person would do in the situation. Or, as the California Supreme Court has also put it, “a want of even scant care” or “an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct that connotes such a lack of care as may be presumed to indicate a passive and indifferent attitude toward results.”