In a recent decision, Tayar v. Camelback Ski Corporation, Inc., 2012 Pa. LEXIS 1625, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that it was against public policy to release reckless behavior in a pre-injury release.

In this case, the plaintiff was snow tubing at the Camelback ski resort in Pennsylvania.  A Camelback employee sent other snow tubers down the slope before the plaintiff was safely out of the landing area at the bottom, and the plaintiff was struck by another snow tuber who came down the slope immediately after her.   As a result, the plaintiff suffered multiple comminuted fractures of her right leg which required surgery.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit to recover for her injuries, and the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by a pre-printed release that the defendant required the plaintiff to sign before she began snow tubing.  The plaintiff argued that the release could not encompass reckless conduct.

The Supreme Court stated that “exculpatory clauses that release a party from negligence generally are not against public policy, and are enforceable provided certain criteria are met.”  However, the court observed that it is a foundation of the law that parties are not permitted to intentionally harm one another, and as a result, releases for intentional harmful conduct are prohibited.

The court noted that recklessness is considered an “extreme departure from ordinary care,” and stated that reckless conduct is closely aligned with intentional conduct, because “recklessness requires conscious action or inaction which creates a substantial risk of harm to others, whereas negligence suggests unconscious inadvertence.”

Accordingly, the court held that the release signed by the plaintiff could not operate to bar claims of recklessness against the defendant. 

Given the large number of activities today which require participants to sign waivers, this recent decision is a clear victory for people who have been injured due to the reckless conduct of others.  If you have recently been injured while participating in a recreational activity, you may still be able to recover for your injuries even if you signed a waiver.