Cleveland Office Obtains Appellate Victory Affirming the Enforceability of All-Inclusive Liability Waivers

Cleveland, Ohio (March 12, 2019) - Cleveland Managing Partner Thomas P. Mannion, Indianapolis Associate Benjamin C. Hoffman, and Cleveland Associate Daniel A. Leister, in a collaborative effort, obtained trial and appellate victories in favor of our client MHR Solutions, a company that provides wellness services across all 50 states. The plaintiff had brought suit against MHR Solutions after suffering an injury as a result of a collapsing massage chair.

Before the incident, the plaintiff signed a liability waiver/release that applied to injuries arising from use of “the company’s facilities.” The plaintiff argued that factual issues existed about the waiver’s applicability because it did not specifically mention the piece of equipment in question. According to the plaintiff, she had no reason to suspect the piece of equipment was even capable of causing injury.

Mr. Hoffman argued that the express, all-inclusive waiver barred the plaintiff’s claims, asserting that not listing the exact piece of equipment involved in the incident did not impact the signed waiver’s enforceability. Therefore, the plaintiff’s lack of “notice” was irrelevant.  The trial court agreed, granting summary judgment in the defendant’s favor, and the plaintiff appealed. Mr. Leister drafted the winning appellate brief and presented the oral argument before Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

This judgment is an important affirmation of the enforceability of all-inclusive waivers in Ohio, but also a reminder to use clear, unambiguous language in your company’s waivers. As the Court of Appeals noted in its ruling, citing the dictionary definition, the plaintiff “alleges that issues of fact must be litigated to determine whether the massage chair was subject to the release. We disagree. The unambiguous language of the release references the term ‘facilities,’ which includes a ‘place, amenity, or piece of equipment provided for a particular purpose.’ (Emphasis added.) English Oxford Dictionary (2019).” (Case No. CA2018-07-074).

For more information on the enforceability of waivers, visit our General Liability Practice page to find an attorney in your area. If you have appellate needs, please visit our Appellate Practice page.

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