Partner Luke Ritchie recently spoke with Samantha Fields at NPR’s Marketplace about the best practices for using companies utilizing liability waivers as companies begin to reopen in the post-COVID-19 world.
The article, Will Liability Waivers Protect Businesses From COVID-19 Lawsuits?, was published in the June 19 edition of Marketplace. An excerpt from the article is below.
You can now go out to eat, go to the mall, even go to the gym in many states. But what happens if you do, and you get COVID-19? Could you sue the gym, if you thought you got it there?
That question is top of mind for a lot of business owners as they reopen.
Luke Ritchie, an attorney with Moye White in Denver, Colorado, is encouraging businesses he works with to use liability waivers, in part because of the ever-changing patchwork of safety guidelines they have to try to follow – CDC guidelines, state guidelines, city guidelines – all of which may be different.
“It’s not easy for a business to make sure they’re following best practices,” Ritchie said. “And so a COVID-19 release or waiver is going to be an additional tool that will help protect you and it’ll help protect the company.”
The Trump campaign also required anyone attending the president’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday to agree not to sue the campaign if they get the virus.
“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the registration form read. “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”
Whether or not such waivers will actually protect businesses from lawsuits is an open question. Laws vary state to state.
In Colorado, Ritchie said, “we have a long history of enforceable liability waivers, and that stems from the recreational industry. Whether it’s livery, where you’re jumping on a horse to take a trail ride, or getting on a raft on the Arkansas River, or of course the most famous – skiing. For all of those activities, you drop your kids off at ski school and you’re signing a liability waiver on their behalf. And in Colorado, those are enforced.”
Having a customer sign a liability waiver may be more of a deterrent than anything else, and a reminder of the risk associated with going into a restaurant or a salon or a store in the age of COVID-19.
Also untested is whether general liability waivers, like you’d see on the back of a ticket to Disneyland or a baseball game, will protect a company in the case of a coronavirus outbreak.
Ritchie expects all of these questions will end up in court eventually.
“I do think there will be a wave of litigation on all of these fronts, dealing with COVID-19,” he said. “And from the business owner’s perspective, you want to be able to say that you were being prudent, that you were exercising all cautions. And the way that you do that is you take the extra step.”
About Moye White LLP
Moye White is a Denver-based business law firm serving clients throughout the United States and internationally. The firm provides legal representation across a wide variety of transactional and litigation matters, offering strategic, business-oriented counsel to public, private, and governmental clients in complex business and real estate transactions and disputes. As one of the first Denver law firms to achieve B Corp certification, Moye White meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. For more information, please visit moyewhite.com or contact Managing Partner Thomas List at 303-292-2900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.