The arrival of the summer months means for many Canadians
dusting off their sports gear and joining a league to enjoy the
warmer weather. In joining, many players will be asked to sign a
waiver of liability intended to protect the league and league
organizers from liability in the event that a player is injured
during competition. Arndt v The Ruskin Slo Pitch
Association,1 is a recent British Columbia Supreme
Court decision that reminds sports leagues and general businesses
alike of the impact that a properly drafted and presented waiver
can have when an individual is injured in the course of a sponsored
The dispute in Arndt arose after the plaintiff was
injured during a softball game when she stepped into a hole while
attempting to field a fly ball. The defendants applied for summary
judgment seeking dismissal of the plaintiff's claim on the
basis that she had signed a waiver of liability and thus should not
be permitted by the court to hold the defendants responsible for
The plaintiff argued in response that she should not be bound by
the waiver, because the waiver information was hidden within a
roster that each player was required to sign at the beginning of
the season.2 She complained that a clipboard with the
waiver/roster document attached was passed around at the first
practice and the plaintiff was neither given an explanation of the
purpose of the document nor opportunity to read it. For those
reasons, the plaintiff claimed that the "act of signing the
document was not the act of signing a waiver."3
Even if a party has not read a document, they are usually bound
to its contents upon signing it. There are, however, exceptions to
the general rule and one such exception was applicable on the
evidence before the court. The court noted:
... there is no general requirement that a party tendering a
document for signature take reasonable steps to apprise the party
signing of onerous terms or to ensure that he reads and understands
them. It is only where the circumstances are such that a reasonable
person should have known that the party signing was not consenting
to the terms in question, that such an obligation arises. For to
stay silent in the face of such knowledge is, in effect, to
misrepresent by omission.4
Although the plaintiff claimed she did not know she was signing
a waiver, the relevant issue for the court was "whether a
reasonable person would know that the plaintiff did not
intend to agree to a liability release."5 In
deciding that issue, the judge in Arndt held that the
document appeared to the "reasonable observer" more like
a "team roster" than a waiver and thus the defendants
could not enforce the waiver against the plaintiff.
Interestingly, counsel for the parties agreed that the language
in the waiver document would have otherwise covered the defendants
and the injury.6 The problem was the "form of the
document itself and the circumstances under which it was presented
for signature [were] not such that a reasonable observer would
understand its nature". The judge noted that "one would
not normally expect a signature on a team roster to also be a
waiver of liability."7
According to the court, in order to ensure that the waiver was
fully enforceable against the plaintiff, the defendants needed to
take "reasonable steps to have the nature of the document as a
waiver rather than a team roster brought to the plaintiff's
attention."8 Ultimately, a lesson to be learned
from the decision is that "[i]f the defendants wanted to
ensure that they were released from liability it would be a simple
matter to have individual release forms prepared and signed by each
player."9 As such, the form of a waiver's
presentation can be just as important as its substance.
1 2011 BCSC 1530
2 Ibid at para 33.
4 Ibid at para 26 citing Karroll v
Silver Star Mountain Resorts Ltd (1988), 33 BCLR (2d) 160 (per
McLachlin CJSC as she then was).
5 Ibid at para 38 [emphasis
6 Ibid at para 21.
7 Ibid at para 43.
8 Ibid at para 45.
The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are
cautioned against making any decisions based on this material
alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.
It's not often that our little blog intersects with such titanic struggles as the U.S. presidential race – and by using the term "titanic" I certainly don't mean to suggest that anything disastrous is in the future.
J.J. v. C.C., is an interesting case in which the court held that an automotive garage owes a duty to minor children to secure the vehicles on the premises by locking the cars and safely storing the car keys...
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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