Club liability?

The previous post on club insurance has me wondering.

Is there a point when an individual or group legally assumes responsibility for a fellow paddlers actions?

If one co-ordinates a trip of fellow paddlers who have no dues, officers, or rented boats, is he/she liable?

At what point would legal liability commence?

Say, if you have an organized club, or if you rent a boat, etc.

In a society where you can sue the resturant for spilling coffee on yourself, I suppose anything’s possible.

Any laywers out there or insurance professionals?


Are you liable if you go out with
friends and one of them gets drunk and has a wreck? Are you liable if you arrange a pick-up BB game and someone breaks a leg?

I presume
I am not. But I don’t know that.

As to the second question, at what point does liablity begin?



Ask a LOT of lawyers
My impression is that the law can be interpreted in more than one way, and you betcha that not every lawyer will tell you the same thing.

If you are worried about a specific person, it’d be safest to simply not allow that person to paddle in the group. It only takes one person to mess it up for everybody else.

I suppose
you’re correct. That’s what keeps lawyers employed.

I’m not at all worried, just kind of wondering where the line is drawn.

Probably the line is defined by the lawyers, judge, and the almighty dollar of a particular case. Such is life.

But I’m still hoping for a more defined answer. I guess I’ll ask at a shop that has a liability waiver.



Liability waivers
Over and over again, I’ve heard and read that those canned waivers won’t hold water if put to the test. And that’s a real shame: it says that written statements mean nothing.

Please post here whatever you do find out. This question comes up fairly often.

You could contact a university law school and ask if someone there might be interested in digging a bit about this.

You are quite correct…

– Last Updated: Jan-31-07 7:14 PM EST –

I'm looking for legal advise from paddling folks. No slight to anyone, but I'm fishing in the wrong hole.
A dear friend of mine is a retired judge, and I intend to put the question to him.
Mind you, this is a retired county judge in Florida, not a Supreme Court Justice, but if he's bored enough, he may dig up something interesting.
I'll post again, using the same heading, for those intrested in his response.
Thanks for the paridigm shift.

Judges and lawyers do not have a
private pipeline to God and Truth. The best way to make sure lawyers and judges don’t jerk us around is to develop a good, realistic sense of ethics and responsibility. In my experience (as a member of the Ethics Committee at my hospital), the greatest enemy of ethical discernment and true responsibility is a slavish dependence on lawyers and judges to tell you what to do.

There’s going to be a good program on the history of the US Supreme Court tonight (Wednesday). Watch, and be shocked at how far from morality and ethics your highest court can stray.

well, maybe
if one or more of the friends provided the alcohol that got the guy drunk, a chain of responsibility might be established.

as to the basketball game: if it were on your private property, hopefully you had your homeowner’s insurance in place with its provisions for General Liability (with whatever per incident limits apply). When you called your friends to come over to play they became your Guests & Invitees.

If it were at a park, or other publicly available facility, the injured party’s attorney might bring a case based on the court surface, lighting, fencing, etc. In which case the same type of G/L coverage carried by the municipality or governmental entiry would kick in.

So besides chain of responsibility and existing conditions, there’s the choice to settle or take it to trial (by bench or by jury).

I used to manage shopping centers. We once settled a case with a lady who wore four inch heels walking across a cobbled courtyard, got her heel jammed between bricks, and sprained her ankle. We paid all medical costs, physical rehab, and even the cost of her shoes because it was cheaper than paying our law firm to represent us in court.

At this point some people might jump in here with the time honored rants about common sense and personal responsibility. That’s fine, but it’s not legal precedent or how the law conceives the test of reasonableness.

Also, a paddling club is not the same legal entity that an LLC, registered partnership, or corporation is and so doesn’t have as many “invisible layers” to shield it.

Not a lawyer btw. Just have spent too many damn hours working with them on lawsuits involving facilities and construction.


Our club decided to stick with ACA
Even a poor of service as we’ve had and the fact that Missouri has a new law that limits the liability of outfitters and should cover us. The sad truth is if someone gets hurt and sues regardless of what waivers or laws protect you you’ll still have to get a lawyer to argue your side. With ACA their lawyers who are familiar with this sort of thing hopefully will help.

Another benefit is that ACA does champion causes and legislation that helps us all.



Best if you never organize a trip

– Last Updated: Jan-31-07 9:31 PM EST –

Never go beyond the idea of a group of people just getting together to paddle. Don't designate a trip leader. You may still run into difficulties if someone gets into trouble and you are trained/certified and don't do the proper thing (standard of care) but that is unlikely. If you do organize or lead a trip, do it with ACA insurance. This is advice given to our group by a lawyer in our group.

Yahoo Groups…
Many groups just make a group on Yahoo and say "Hey, I’m going paddling at such a place at such a time… company welcome…

Liability 101
I run a paddling school, so this is something I know more about than I would care to!

What you’re really interested in is “negligence.” Would you be negligent if you organized a trip and someone got hurt?

Negligence occurs when three things happen:

  1. There is a duty owed;
  2. The duty is breached;
  3. Injury results from the breached duty.

    When you organize an outing with just your friends, there is no duty owed…you are not acting as a professional, being paid, etc.

    For an organized group, such as a club, there may be a duty owed by the trip leaders/organizers. They are responsible for acting in accordance with their level of training, which may involve informing participants of the risks, skill level required, etc.

    For a paid outfitter, the expected standard of care is much higher (legally defined as “what a prudent professional would do”), with a clear duty present to actively manage risks for the participants at all times.

    The truth is, all paddlers should practice good risk management at all times, anyhow. But you shouldn’t shy away from club activities for fear of being sued.

Whatever happened
to pals calling each other up or emailing about a surf session or paddle trip etc.?? Why these clubs? What benefit is there in a club? I just do not get it…but then I’ve never been so inclined to be controlled by stupid structure. Just go paddling with yer buds…talk bout what ya need to in terms of safety, gear etc., but go do it. I think clubs are more about other needs being met. I’m incapable of grasping the club gig…Next comes patches and labels! Nature doesn’t care.

I’m a member of three local kayak clubs (brick and mortar). The advantages?

Storage for you kayak, fleet of club kayaks, shower facilities, indoor kayak ergometers, strength training equipment, a large number of organized events(races, trips and so on) and people to share your interest with.

Membership is typical less than $150 a year and after passing the basic and free instruction course, you get a key and can freely use the club’s equipment.

Most people don’t paddle much, so they never buy their own gear.

Those of us who paddle often(daily), are dependent on having our kayaks stored right at the edge of the water. Few can afford to buy a house in the front row.

I have a hard time grasping why you wouldn’t want to be part of a kayak club?


I think kayak41north has it right
If you are in the business, your liability is high. A local judge who sometimes paddles with our informal group argued that informality and no affiliation is the way to go. No leaders, just groups of individuals assuming their own risk. Having insurance actually makes your group a target. Lawyers are looking for deep pockets.

ACA insurance is really not there to protect you or your group. It exists to protect ACA from lawsuits. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the ACA is going to aggressively protect you or your club from lawsuits. If an accident happens, the ACA’s insurance company is going to look at the fine print, and if your club didn’t fill out all the paperwork properly, or you violated any one of the many rules and regs outlined in their policy, they’ll drop you like a hot potato. ACA and otufitters have no choice–they have to have insurance. Groups of paddlers do have a choice, and you are better off figuring out if your personal insurance covers you for your personal actions, and avoid creating groups with charters, officers, leaders, etc.

What is the test of informality? Does posting a notice on a message board about meeting at the river for a paddle pass or fail the test?

I wonder about organized trips and just where liability might begin or end. I have seen more potentially hazardous situations on shuttles on the highway than I have seen on the water.

Different Perspectives
I don’t need boat storage. I don’t need equipment. Have my own. Found most club members don’t like/want to do what I do. I found some folks not compatible. I don’t like the implicit/explicit dynamics of “leaders” and “followers.” I could afford $150 but why bother? Rather give that to charity than to a club that doesn’t reflect my interest/approach.

Joining clubs work for some and not for others. I do agree with Salty that some folks are in clubs not for paddling purposes but for “other needs.” That’s okay if it’s up front. Problems/misunderstandings come in when expectations don’t match up.


The real issues are
1) are you representing yourself as the responsible party and guaranteeing the safety of all?

2)do you or your organization have deep pockets? Lawyers sniff out money–either in the form of serious assets, or insurance coverage. They aren’t likely to go after Joe middle class homeowner unless it is an easy slam dunk case of Joe’s egregious negligence. They are likely to go after the business owner with assets, or an organization like the ACA.

We just have a “show and go” policy. It is your responsibility to get you and your boat to the put-in. Your responsibility to figure out a shuttle arrangement with friends. Your responsibility to know if you have the skills to paddle in the conditions. We don’t pose as experts or isntructors. We’re just paddlers.

Yup. Yahoo Groups Are Great…
I would suggest posting right up front that folks are responsible for themselves in deciding whether a trip is appropriate or not.