When I signed up for the half marathon back in August, I knew my fee was non-refundable. I have no recollection if I checked a box for a waiver at that time.
Fast forward to January – I got my confirmation email with a link to get my “Packet Pickup Confirmation Sheet.” I needed to sign and turn it in at the pre-race health expo to get my race number and microchip. On this form was a “Release and Waiver of Liability Agreement” that was over three inches of small print. It seems pretty sneaky for the organizers to get us to pay our money and then tell us what we had to agree to in order to participate.
Here’s what the waiver said:
(You/your = the runner; We/us/our = the organizers)
- Neither you nor your heirs can sue the organizers, sponsors, or municipalities for any reason related to the race.
- You can’t sue if you’re injured or die during the race, even if we’re negligent.
- We can use your name and photo without paying you for it.
- If the event is cancelled or delayed, we won’t give you a refund.
- You will pay all expenses for your medical care related to doing the race.
Past research of Arizona case law taught me that signing a waiver that releases an entity from liability, even if that entity is negligent, will be upheld by the court. So basically, if you sign the waiver and get hurt, you can’t sue and win. All the runners I talked to before the race said that they signed the waiver without reading it. However, I remembered something from contract law that said if you cross out the terms of the contract that you don’t like before you sign it, that it removes those terms from the agreement. I went through the waiver and crossed out the clause that released them from liability for their negligence and the clause that said I’m responsible for all race related medical expenses. I used a bright royal blue ballpoint pen to cross out the clauses so they couldn’t claim that my marks could be mistaken for a bad print job from my printer.
When I went to the pre-race expo, I brought clean copy of the waiver in case they didn’t accept my version of the agreement. It ends up I didn’t need it. The volunteer accepted my agreement without any questions.
I emailed my personal injury attorney friend and he said what I did would probably hold up in court. Looking back, I’m surprised that the agreement didn’t have a clause that said that participants couldn’t alter the waiver before signing it or that the organizers didn’t tell the expo volunteers not to accept waivers that had been altered.