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Moore v. Hartley Motors
36 P.3d 628
• The appellant (injured party) appealed the judgment of the Superior Court in Palmer (Alaska), which granted summary judgment to the appellees: the safety class instructor, the organizations that developed and offered the class, and the owner of the property on which the class took place, in an action for damages arising from an injury sustained during an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety class.
• The injured party was injured when she drove her ATV over a rock and the vehicle rolled over. -Before participating in the class, the injured party signed a release of liability.
-In the injured party’s damages action, the trial court granted summary judgment for appellees.
• On appeal, the supreme court determined the trial court did not err in rejecting the injured party’s claim that the release was invalid for failure of consideration. In addition, the supreme court found the release did not present a violation of public policy. However, the supreme court concluded even if there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding a misrepresentation, the trial court erred in failing to consider the scope of the release signed by the injured party. Based on the language of the release, the supreme court concluded the injured party agreed to release appellees only from liability for injuries sustained as a result of participation in the ATV riding and safety class. The supreme court advised the allegedly improper course layout could be actionable if the course posed a risk beyond ordinary negligence related to the inherent risks of off-road ATV riding assumed by the release.
• A court errs in failing to consider the scope of a release before granting summary judgment in a negligence action.
• An otherwise valid release is ineffective when releasing a defendant from liability would violate public policy.
• As with any contract, a release of liability is only valid to the extent that it reflects a conspicuous and unequivocally expressed intent to release from liability.
• An exculpatory release can be enforced if the intent to release a party from liability for future negligence is conspicuously and unequivocally expressed.
• For purposes of an exculpatory clause, if a given danger can be eliminated or mitigated through the exercise of reasonable care, it is not a necessary danger and is therefore not an inherent risk of the activity.
• For purposes of an exculpatory clause, an “unreasonable risk” has been described as one for which the likelihood and gravity of the harm threatened outweighs the utility of the conduct and the burden on the defendant for removing the danger.
• An exculpatory clause should not be upheld where the negligent act falls greatly below the standard established by law for protection of others.
• The supreme court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.
-Trial Court erred in granting summary judgement.
-Genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the injury resulted from unreasonable dangers that were not within the scope of the release.
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