Is a release for liability valid against a motorcycle school?

Most people are familiar with signing a release for liability also called a liability waiver when participating in various recreational activities such as skydiving. Before being allowed to participate, an employee requires you to sign a release in case you’re injured because of their negligence. Sometimes, the release is on the back of your admission ticket.

People usually believe they can’t file a lawsuit because the signed a waiver of liability but that’s usually not true. In fact, that’s the reason for the release, to make you think you can’t have a lawsuit. Most lawyers are aware that these releases have no legal significance and will be happy to represent you if you are injured.

One of our clients was injured at the bottom of a toboggan run In New York. His admission lift ticket had a release for liability. He was an engineer and easily identified the negligent design he was staring at when he was injured.

New York State General Obligations Law § 5–326 prohibits an owner or operator of a recreational facility from enforcing a release given by someone who has paid for the use of the facility.  This is why we were able to represent that client.

However, these releases are sometimes enforceable. For instance, when the activity is instructional rather than recreational such as a motorcycle school. Just a few years ago, this issue was decided in a case against a motorcycle school in Queens, New York (Boateng v Motorcycle Safety School, Inc. 51 A.D.3d 702, 858 N.Y.S.2d 312, 2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 04455).

The motorcyclist signed up for a two day rider training course at a motorcycle school. On the second day, it was raining and you guessed it, there was a motorcycle accident. The motorcyclist filed a personal injury lawsuit after being injured in the accident because she was not trained for riding in the rain. The motorcyclist claimed that the motorcycle school was negligent in proceeding without giving proper training and instruction on how to ride a motorcycle in the rain.

Rain drops on a motorcycle

The New York State Supreme Court held that the release was not valid and allowed the case against the motorcycle school to go forward but the decision was appealed by the motorcycle school to the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.

The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Supreme Court and held that the release was valid because the motorcyclist participated in a course of instruction provided by the motorcycle school and was not participating in recreational activity.

The Appellate Division also ruled that the release was clear in stating that the motorcyclist was aware of the risks and assumed the risks associated with participating in the motorcycle riding course. Since the release was ruled to be valid, so was the assumption of risk.

Consequently, the lawsuit was dismissed and the rider was not able to be compensated for the injury.

If you are ever injured and think you don’t have a case or cannot file a lawsuit, always speak with a lawyer to make sure.  We always provide a free consultation.

If you’re a motorcycle school on Long Island or in New York and would like a free consultation, please call Attorneys Phil Franckel and Rob Plevy at 1-800-HURT-911.