SIGNING YOUR LIFE AWAY: A LOOK AT RELEASES FOR EXTREME ACTIVITIES

rock-climbing

If you’ve ever participated in an extreme activity (scuba diving, sky diving, auto racing, paintball, etc.), you’ve probably had to sign a release. On more than one occasion I’ve had the opportunity to participate in such activities and I’ve often remarked, as I sign the release, that “I’m signing my life away.”

I’ve had several people ask me lately if a company can enforce a release if the person is injured while involved in the activity which required them to sign the release.

Despite all the legal language that makes up a release, if you are injured due to someone else’s negligence, you should know that you don’t necessarily sign away your life just because you sign a release. A recent case from the Third District Court of Appeal illustrates this concept perfectly.

In Diodato v. Islamorada Asset Management, Inc., D12-3393, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D913 (Fla. Dist. Ct. of App. May 9, 2014), the Court dealt with the issue of whether a scuba diving company could enforce prior releases signed by Ms. Diodato. Her estate brought a wrongful death claim against the scuba diving company after she died during a dive in the Florida Keys. While the case provides detailed facts surrounding the tragic death of Ms. Diodato, the pertinent fact is that Ms. Diodato signed two releases with the same scuba diving company prior to her death. One release was signed over a year before her death and another release was signed a day before her death.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Diodato noted that in Florida “exculpatory clauses are disfavored and are enforceable only where and to the extent that the intention to be relieved from liability was made clear and unequivocal and the wording must be so clear and understandable that an ordinary and knowledgeable person will know what he is contracting away.” Moreover, a “release containing exculpatory language is part of a commercial transaction having a discernible scope and term.”

In other words, for a release to be valid and relieve a company from liability in Florida, the release should be written in plain English and should properly define the rights you are giving up.

When applying these concepts, the court found that the scope and terms of the prior releases signed by Ms. Diodato did not apply to the diving trip that caused her death. In fact, the scuba diving company had a specific release for the trip that Ms. Diodato went on when she died but failed to have her sign that release.

So, if you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence while involved in an activity where you had to sign a release, don’t give up hope because you signed a release. Call The Pansler Law Firm today and speak with an attorney about your case during a free consultation.

 

 


 

Written by Christopher Ison, Esq.

The Pansler Law Firm

223 North Florida Ave

Lakeland, FL 33801

863.683.7500

WATCH OUT FOR THOSE RUGS: PREMISES LIABILITY IN TRIP AND FALL CASES

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When dealing with trip/slip and fall cases, landowners in Florida owe an invitee (someone other than a trespasser) two separate duties: 1.) to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, and 2.) to give warning of concealed perils. Landowners often attempt to avoid the second duty when the condition which caused the injury was known or obvious to the injured party. The courts refer to this defense as the “open and obvious” doctrine. Recently, the Fourth District Court of Appeal dealt with a case regarding trip/slip and fall and the “open and obvious” doctrine.

In Paulette De Cruz-Haymer v. Festival Food Market, Inc.,D11-3580, 2013 WL 3811777 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. July 24, 2013), the Fourth District Court of Appeal found that where the injured party tripped on a mat at a grocery store, knowing that the mat was not lying flat and was slightly “humped,” the trial court was not wrong to grant summary judgment (legal jargon for throwing out the case) on the issue of whether the mat was an “open and obvious” condition.

The twist in this case, however, stemmed from the fact that the trial court failed to realize that the defendant also owed the plaintiff a separate duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Because an employee laid the mat down in a negligent manner (leaving the mat slightly “humped” and not lying flat) and because the grocery store had only one entrance and exit, the Fourth District felt that the grocery store’s conduct created the following issue for a jury to determine: should the grocery store have expected the likelihood a patron tripping over the mat when their employee didn’t ensure that the mat was flush and flat on the ground and the grocery store only had one exist, forcing all patrons to walk on the mat. In other words, did the grocery store breach their duty to the patron to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition?

If you have been injured in a slip/trip and fall, contact The Pansler Law Firm today and tell us what happened. We will be delighted to review your case and explain your options during our free consultation.

 


Written by Christopher Ison, Esq.

The Pansler Law Firm

223 North Florida Ave

Lakeland, FL 33801

863.683.7500

 

ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT: HOW NOT WEARING YOUR SEAT BELT COULD COST YOU MORE THAN JUST YOUR LIFE

 

 

No one disputes the fact that seat belts save lives. However, even if you think that you will survive a car accident while not wearing a seat belt, you need to ask yourself the following: how much will not wearing my seat belt cost me?

Mayuris Disla v. Joseph Blanco, D11-2556, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1582 (Fla. Dist. Ct. of App. August 2, 2013), provides the perfect example of the cost of not wearing a seat belt during an accident. The most important part of Disla, for purposes of this discussion, stems from the factual background as noted by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. In Disla, the defendant, Blanco, suffered a seizure while driving plaintiff Disla home. During Blanco’s seizure, he lost control of his car, ran over two curbs, swiped a tree and ran into a house. Unfortunately, Disla did not wear her seat belt while riding in the passenger seat of Blanco’s car. As a result, she suffered a broken neck which required two neck fusion surgeries.

Because Disla suffered a broken neck in the accident, she incurred astronomical medical bills. At trial the jury awarded $205,325.00 for her injuries. However, because Disla did not wear her seat belt, the jury said that she was 90% comparatively at fault for her injuries.

Under Florida’s comparative fault laws, if a jury finds both the defendant and plaintiff negligent, then the court must reduce the jury’s award by the percentage of the plaintiff’s negligence. And that’s exactly what happened to Disla. Since the jury found Disla 90% at fault in the accident, the court reduced her $205,325.00 award to only $10,532.50 (after also taking into account other factors).

If Disla had worn her seat belt, perhaps she would not have required two neck surgeries; or, perhaps she would have been allowed to keep the full $205,325.00 that the jury awarded her. Either way, let Disla’s case serve as a reminder to you the next time you ride in a car without fastening your seat belt.


 

Written by Christopher Ison, Esq.

The Pansler Law Firm

223 North Florida Ave

Lakeland, FL 33801

863.683.7500

 

New “Black Box” Technology for Cars

Is your car spying on you?
 
   Many people associate “Black Box” technology with airplanes as the key tool in investigating plane crashes, but they are no longer exclusive to planes. Car manufacturers worldwide have started implementing this technology in order to track and improve the performance of their vehicles. 96% of newly manufactured cars today have this technology as do over 150 million older cars on the road, and if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has its way, all cars produced from September 2014 and on will have them.
 
 
   This technology is basically an electronic data recorder (EDR) and records events and actions of the driver including speed, braking, turning, seatbelt use, location, etc., and will undoubtedly help both the police in reconstructing events of accident, as well as insurance companies offering a number of benefits to the car’s owner.
 
   This new addition to roadway vehicles will completely eliminate the “he said, she said” aspect of collisions on the road, making it easier to prove fault and justly compensate the correct parties. However, privacy advocates are concerned that the data these black boxes receive will be used against drivers, arguing that it violates privacy protection and fears that it may not be adequately regulated.
 
What do you think of this new “Black Box” technology for cars? Voice your opinion in the comments section below.

Lack of Patient Safety is one of Leading Causes of Death in America

Lack of Patient Safety is one of Leading Causes of Death in America

An interesting interview with Dr. Marty Makary, author of “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care,” explores why patient harm persists in the medical system and what can be done about it.

Medical care has its own code and culture, which often does not put patients first, according to Dr. Marty Makary, a cancer surgeon and researcher at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the School of Public Health. And providers who speak against that code can pay a heavy price.

Dr. Makary offers a candid opinion on the corporatization of health care, unaccountability in the medical profession, the importance of transparency, and patient safety. 

Complacency and blind trust are the greatest barriers. The complacency is embodied in the traditions of medicine. Medicine has its own culture, values, vocabulary and justice system. Part of that culture is that we only listen to ourselves.There’s a tremendous amount of appropriate respect for tradition and hierarchy, like in the military. But now that the knowledge has expanded, so there are so many services offered by a hospital that you have to ask why care isn’t more coordinated. And the blind trust is the blind trust of the public. It’s not their fault. They have no choice but to walk into an emergency room and get treated by the first doctor on call. But the treatment is too often based on that individual’s practice rather than what’s the best evidence.

If you or a loved one have experienced negligence on behalf of your medical provider, call the Pansler Law Firm today to review your case. Accountability is only a phone call away.

(863) 683 – 7500
http://www.pansler.com

 

A Message to our Friends & Neighbors

The Pansler Law Firm feels honored and privileged to provide competent legal representation to the Lakeland, FL community. Attorney Karl F. Pansler, a native to the great city of Lakeland, has been serving the Lakeland community’s legal needs since 1985. If you are in need of legal expertise, call the Pansler Law Firm today.

(863) 683 – 7500
http://www.pansler.com

Pansler Law Times

The Pansler Law Times is a quarterly newsletter to stay connected and update our clients and colleagues of news in our firm, our community and topics we feel may be of interest. You can find our latest newsletter by following the link below:

The Pansler Law Times

As officers of the law, we believe it is important to inform American Citizens of their rights, any changes in the law that may affect them in the future, and how to protect themselves and their loved ones. If you believe this would be of service to you and your family in the future, we would love to add you to our mailing list.

Take care and God bless.

Sincerely,

The Pansler Law Firm