As with any contract, a release of liability is only valid to the extent that it reflects a conspicuous and unequivocally expressed intent to release from liability.
Gayle Moore was injured during an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety class when she drove her ATV over a rock and the vehicle rolled over. Before participating in the class, Moore signed a release of liability. After her injury, however, she sued for damages the safety class instructor, the organizations that developed and offered the class, and the owner of the property on which the class took place. She alleged that the release was not valid because she received no consideration, the release was against public policy, and the course was inherently unsafe. The supreme court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings because the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. Genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the injury resulted from unreasonable dangers not within the scope of the release.
Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the injury resulted from unreasonable dangers not within the scope of the release?
The supreme court determined the trial court did not err in rejecting the injured party's claim that the release was invalid for failure of consideration. In addition, the supreme court found the release did not present a violation of public policy. However, the supreme court concluded even if there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding a misrepresentation, the trial court erred in failing to consider the scope of the release signed by the injured party. Based on the language of the release, the supreme court concluded the injured party agreed to release appellees only from liability for injuries sustained as a result of participation in the ATV riding and safety class. The supreme court advised the allegedly improper course layout could be actionable if the course posed a risk beyond ordinary negligence related to the inherent risks of off-road ATV riding assumed by the release.