For an exculpatory clause relating to an area that is open to the public, the major public policy implications are those underlying the law of premises liability. In Vermont, a business owner has a duty of active care to make sure that its premises are in safe and suitable condition for its customers.
While skiing at the resort's facilities, the skier sustained serious injuries when he collided with a metal pole that formed part of the control maze for a ski lift line. The skier signed a form releasing the resort area from liability, which the resort required of all of its customers. The skier and his wife filed a complaint against the resort, alleging negligent design, construction, and replacement of the maze pole. The trial court granted the resort's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the release of liability barred the negligence action.
Is an exculpatory agreement void if it violates public policy interest?
The court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the resort, finding that the exculpatory agreements which the resort required all skiers, including the plaintiff, to sign, releasing the resort from all liability resulting from negligence, were void as contrary to public policy. The resort owed its customers a duty of active care to make sure its premises were in a safe and suitable condition.