Ericksen Arbuthnot Wins Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Liability Release Signed by the Plaintiff

October 1, 2014

A judge in Amador County, California recently granted a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Ericksen Arbuthnot on behalf of its client, a recreational camp. Prior to attending the camp, the plaintiff had signed a written release, which provided:

[PLAINTIFF] hereby agrees to assume all risk and to release [DEFENDANT] from any and all liability for any injuries or damages arising from the use of its facilities and/or equipment for Himself, Herself, or any Minor who may accompany the Undersigned.

This broad language was sufficient to cover the plaintiff’s injury incurred while she was using a raft provided by the defendant to cross a river. The courts consistently enforce liability releases in a recreational context. (See Olsen v. Breeze, Inc. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 608, 619-620 [“… agreements, in the context of sporting or recreational activities, have consistently been enforced.”].) This case fell in line with those case authorities, even though the plaintiff argued that she used the raft not to “recreate”, but only to cross the river. (See also YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles v. Superior Court (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 22, in which the court reversed an order denying Motion for Summary Judgment and enforced a liability release to bar a patron’s claims arising from trip and fall occurring while she was viewing a display case).

In granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court noted that: “A written release may exculpate a tortfeasor from future negligence or misconduct when the release is ‘clear, unambiguous, and explicit in expressing the intent of the subscribing parties.” (Citing Bennett v. United States Cycling Federation (1987) 193 Cal.App.4th 1485.) The release here was clear and the injury broadly arose in the recreational context, so it barred the plaintiff’s negligence claims, as a matter of law.

Greg Mase is a partner in the San Francisco and Los Angeles offices and can be reached at 415.887.8071 or