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The question of whether an exculpatory clause will be enforced depends upon whether or not defendant's conduct and the risk of injury inherent in said conduct is of a type intended by the parties to fall within the scope of the clause. The precise occurrence, which results in injury need not be contemplated by the parties at the time the agreement is entered into.
Plaintiff, David R. Masciola, participated in a ski race sponsored by defendant, the Chicago Metropolitan Ski Council, at the ski resort of Indianhead Mountain in Wakefield, Gogebic County, Michigan. As a sponsor of the race, defendant required each participant to sign a "waiver of liability" prior to participating in the race. Plaintiff signed the waiver. Subsequently, plaintiff filed a 10-count complaint against defendant for damages for personal injuries sustained while participating in the ski race sponsored by defendant. Plaintiff alleged that his injuries were the result of a fall from a compression area in the ski racecourse which caused him to be thrown into the poles marking the finish line. Counts I and II of the complaint alleged negligence and willful and wanton conduct respectively, on the part of defendant. The trial court dismissed count II of the complaint and granted summary judgment to defendant on count I. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court's grant of summary judgment was erroneous with respect to both counts of the complaint on the basis of its finding that an exculpatory clause was enforceable and therefore barred the complaint because the unsafe conditions of the racecourse exceeded the scope of the contemplated risks encompassed by the exculpatory clause, and that the judgment was erroneous with respect to the will and wanton count because exculpatory clauses were void and against public policy when applied to willful and wanton conduct.
Under the circumstances, did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant?
The court refused to consider the plaintiff’s claims with respect to the willful and wanton count because those allegations were dismissed prior to the summary judgment and thus, could not be considered by the court. The court held that the grant of summary judgment with regard to the negligence count was proper as there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the exculpatory agreement encompassed the plaintiff’s injuries. The court noted that the precise occurrence, which resulted in injury need not be contemplated by the parties at the time the agreement was entered into.