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Oran v. Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. - Civil Action No. 08-0034, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110350 (D.V.I. Nov. 23, 2009)

Rule:

The scope of a release is governed by the intent of the parties as it is expressed in the release. If the text in the release is unambiguous, the parties' intentions must be ascertained from the plain, ordinary meaning of the language of the release.

Facts:

Plaintiff's claim for relief arises from an injury he suffered when he slipped and fell on bench cushions aboard  a 45-foot catamaran owned by Defendants BFM Sailing I, LLC and operated by Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. Plaintiff signed up for defendants’ sailing course and signed a release agreement in favor of defendants. Plaintiff avers in his Second Amended Complaint that Moving Defendants were negligent in failing to properly secure the bench cushions, have proper fastening devices on the bench cushions, or warn of the bench cushions' condition, and that such a condition rendered the Hound Dog unseaworthy.

Issue:

Was the Release document signed by plaintiff in favor of defendants valid?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Release is unambiguous. It contains explicit language providing that the plaintiff assumes all responsibility of any injury he might sustain and that he agrees to release from liability Fair Wind Sailing and its officers, directors, employees or agents. The Release is comprehensive in its exculpatory language, which the Court finds to be unambiguous and takes at its plain meaning. Moreover, Plaintiff's alleged injury falls under the Release's broad scope. As the Michigan Court of Appeals recognized of a similar release before it in Cole, “[t]he release covered all risks of any injury that the undersigned may sustain while on the premises. As this Court has held, there is no broader classification than the word ‘all.’ The Court finds that the Release is effective as to both Fair Wind and BFM, since Fair Wind served as BFM's agent, and “the release of the agent removes the only basis [respondeat superior] for imputing liability to the principal.” Theophelis v. Lansing Gen. Hosp., 430 Mich. 473, 424 N.W.2d 478, 491 (Mich. 1988).

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