Florida is known for its picturesque terrain and numerous options for outdoor recreational activities. Some common activities are water sports, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, hiking, and biking. Although these activities are often advertised as “guided” and “safe,” there are always some inherent risks involved in participating in them. Prior to participating in one of these activities, companies that provide these experiences will almost always have the patron sign a waiver of liability in the event that an accident does occur.
Liability Waivers in Florida
Although Florida recreation companies cannot waive away all of their liability, there is a fair amount that they can avoid. Florida has various statutes that limit the applicability of waivers for specific activities, but this does not apply to all activities. These waivers essentially require the patron to affirm that they are aware of the risks involved in participating in the specific activity for which they are signing up.
Inherent risks are generally considered those that are common to the activity in which one is participating. For example, an inherent risk of horseback riding session would likely be falling off the horse.
How to Overcome a Waiver of Liability in Florida?
Overcoming a waiver liability in Florida can be a daunting task. These documents are generally considered legally binding, and it can be difficult to make the appropriate legal arguments necessary to make the agreement void. Some ways to overcome the waiver are to argue that the waiver does not apply to the victim, or to allege that the scope of the waiver is too broad or ambiguous. Moreover, a plaintiff may argue that the defendant’s behavior was grossly negligent. These arguments are not always clear-cut, and a successful argument should be crafted by a skilled attorney.
Circuit Court Finds That Man Killed in Horseback Ride Was Aware of Inherent Risks
Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a horseback riding accident. In 2012, a man was killed when he was participating in a guided horseback ride near Yellowstone. Prior to the horseback ride, the man and his wife were asked to sign a form indicating that they acknowledged the risks of participating in the activity and that at times horses can act unpredictably, and a collision or fall may occur. The couple signed the form, acknowledging the risks and assuming full responsibility for any injuries or accidents.
Sadly, during the ride, one of the horses became startled by a flock of ducks and caused a commotion among all of the horses. During the fiasco, the man’s horse began quickly galloping and eventually threw the man to the ground. He was airlifted to a hospital and died from his injuries.
The man’s wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the riding company, alleging four different causes of action, including negligence. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
Circuit Court Decision
The circuit court addressed whether the accident was a risk inherent in horseback riding. The court found that in this situation, there were four main risks. These were that wildlife would be on the trail, a wild animal may spook a horse, the spook may cause a chain reaction, and finally the other horses may run downhill.
The court found that the man freely elected to participate in the activity and that he knew that an inherent risk was falling off a horse that became scared. The plaintiff unsuccessfully argued that the company should have eliminated these risks, but she did not point out any behavior of the defendant that increased the risks involved. Ultimately, the court concluded that the tragic fatal injuries were an inherent risk of horseback riding, and summary judgment in favor of the defendants was appropriate.
Have You Been Injured While Participating in a Recreational Activity in Florida?
Recreational activities and guided tours are very common in Florida, and although these activities come with risks, no one participates assuming they will be hurt or killed – but sadly this can happen. An attorney at the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank can assist you in determining whether a negligence lawsuit is appropriate and how to pursue compensation. Contact an attorney at Friedman, Rodman & Frank today at 877-448-8585 to schedule your free initial consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims in Florida, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 21, 2017.
Accident Victims Should Not Be Pressured to Accept Settlement Offers by Pushy Florida Insurance Adjusters, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 5, 2018.