Ask Our Lawyer March 2013

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

TIS THE SEASON FOR POKER RUNS AND GETTING WAIVERS IS A PAIN

Q.   Rod. We are having a Poker Run in early spring. Each year we have more riders and handling the number of waiver documents is becoming more difficult. I have been to rides where they staple a waiver to the front of a legal pad. Participants are then handed the legal pad and are asked to read the waiver and sign on the next available line on the legal pad. This would save us a lot of work. We only need a few waivers and three or four legal size pads to get everyone’s signature. Can we do it this way? P.L. ABATE OF ILLINOIS MEMBER

A.   It would beat nothing, but here is what I fear would happen. Judges strictly construe the waiver of legal rights, as they should. Afterall, we are asking a fellow motorcyclist to give up his sacred right to go to court and sue us if we are negligent and cause him harm in exchange for our permission to allow him to go on our poker run. What I fear is that a participant on our poker run would say that he thought he was “merely signing a sign-in sheet” and did not see or notice there was a waiver attached to the front of the legal pad (it may have been honestly folded back so one could sign on the lines of the legal pad). I am not buying that argument but several courts have, and agreed that the waiver may have been overlooked. Since waivers are strictly construed, many courts would hold that the waiver was ineffective as it was not knowingly signed. In other words, the guy gets off the hook for the waiver he signed and we may get screwed in any claim/lawsuit. So the better way to accomplish getting a knowingly signed waiver is to have a separate waiver for each participant.

       WAIVER OVERSEERS ARE A MUST FOR RUNS

Q.   I was at your seminar presentation put on by A.B.A.T.E. OF Illinois. What is the best way to make sure waivers are properly signed? I have noticed that some people do not sign their true names or they sign it illegibly? A.B.A.T.E. OF Illinois member

A.   A waiver overseer should be appointed at all events for which you are requesting a waiver as a condition of participating. The only time we need the signed waiver is when there is an incident. When that occurs, we need someone to go through what may be several hundred/thousand waivers in the hopes that the proper waiver can be identified and produced. Issues concerning legibility can be solved by requiring a printed name below the signature. But what do you do if a participant questions the signature? The solution is simple. A waiver overseer can initial each waiver that is signed during his “shift” and in his presence. That way, I can obtain an affidavit from the overseer that affirms that he saw the person sign the waiver. This is critical to have, in case the validity of a waiver comes into question.

TRESPASSERS ON RIDES AND WHAT TO DO

Q.   Hi Rod, a question came up regarding liability waiver forms for our runs and activities. Question is this: What if a person jumps in on the run (seeing a buddy having fun), crashes the gate or just refuses to sign in? How does the law look at this if the person (God forbid) is harmed in some way during our activity? Is this person “Not trespassing?” Who’s got our back on this one? Or , how do we cover our backside? James Blevins, ABATE OF OHIO MEMBER.

A.   A sign that declares that all participants in the ride must sign a waiver works. Banding is the best way to mark those that have paid and signed the waiver. All others are not authorized (trespassers) and should be admonished to stay clear of the ride/activity. Rides should be escorted by police officers, so a simple gesture from them is usually all it takes. If they stay with the ride and are injured, evidence that all participants were required to sign a waiver will be significant to the court in deciding responsibility, and testimony from the escorting police officer will be helpful in establishing the unauthorized (trespassing) status of the interloper. Recently a California Appellate Court decided a case that may be a good precedent for us. In that case, a couple attended a poker run for several years and signed the required waiver. Then one year, they did not sign the waiver and were seriously injured in a crash on the run. Of course, they sued the run organizers for damages. Interestingly, the court held that there was an expectation of required waivers and held that the couple was bound by it and dismissed the case. While Ohio has not decided a case with those facts, you can bet ABATE LEGAL will be pointing at that California case and arguing that Ohio should adopt such a good rule. Same for Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and New York as well.

JULIE BACON TREASURER OF A.B.A.T.E. OF ILLINOIS – BOSSY PANTS?

I don’t think so. As a matter of fact she is right on and doing her job, and no one has ever done it better.

Q.   Last week Julie and I had the following conversation. “Rod, what can we do to eliminate calls from our Chapters (Regions in other states) that complain that a local treasurer/assistant has “borrowed” money from their local ABATE account.

A.   The problem is that “honest people are trusting people” and as such we are vulnerable unless we strictly follow the rules implemented by most not for profit corporations. As Julie and I discussed, the solution is very simple. RULE 1: Follow the rules. RULE 2: Require dual signatures on all ABATE checking accounts. RULE 3: Require bonding for accounts that will have balances over $5k. Bonding is cheap and it spares us of having to eat our own. If you have a loss, simply report it to the bonding company. They will send you (Chapter or Region) the money lost and will collect the amount “borrowed” from our errant money caretakers. Believe me, those folks are brutally efficient at collecting amounts taken. People like “Luca Brasi” work for them and some of them are lawyers. The only problem is that bonding companies are particular as to the individuals they will agree to bond, as they like making money. Come to think of it, a rejection by a bonding company may be a good way to delegate the asking of and receiving answers to embarrassing questions of one of our fellow members. RULE 4: If the member can’t get bonding, should they be handling our money? I don’t think so, unless you are willing to suffer Julie’s wrath when you call her to report the loss. She is getting good at saying, “I told you; just follow the rules.”

JULIE’S SIMILAR QUESTIONS FROM YEARS AGO

Q. We have been hit by yet another round of misappropriations in our A.B.A.T.E. local organization by someone we trusted. What can we do to make sure this does not happen in the future? Julie Bacon, Treasurer, A.B.A.T.E. OF ILLINOIS

A. Probably nothing to guarantee that it never happens, but there are several things we can do to minimize the chances and the amounts at risk. Here are some simple rules.

  1. Don’t let people who desperately need money handle the money. Get a credit check from those handling the funds. There should be no privacy issues when it comes to those handling our life blood of the organization – dollars.
  2. Even if you get a good person to handle the money – get two of them for a check and balance. Always require dual signatures on any checks.
  3. You should bond any money transactions over the amount you can’tafford to use. Bonding is cheap compared to the risk. The local A.B.A.T.E. organization should decide the threshold of its pain – namely what amount can it afford to lose through misappropriation and then bond over that amount. The good part about bonding is that the bonding company will get a credit history from these persons and will be responsible for getting the money back if there is a theft. The bonding company will ask the questions that we are usually embarrassed to ask. In short, they will screen our people for us. Of course, they will pay us up front if we have a loss. Bonding is cheap compared to the alternative.
  1. The reason for number 3 above is that A.B.A.T.E. does not have to be the bad guy. In other words, we do not have to eat our own if we have someone that betrays our trust.
  2. What do you do when you think we have been had by a person entrusted with our funds? Nip it in the bud. Worst case is that you embarrass yourself by asking the “who, what, when and where” questions. If you have done your job with A.B.A.T.E., you will have followed our loss procedures and the theft will be minimal. If you have required dual signatures and one signature was forged, the bank will be responsible for the loss, and you have done a good job for A.B.A.T.E.
  3. What do we do when we find a theft? Do we hang/prosecute them or? A policy should be followed that takes into account our legal requirements, but also should allow for explanations for the failure of trust. Remorse, mistakes etc., should be evaluated. When in doubt, call us for advice. Julie and I have been through this too many times, and we are here to help you through this tough situation.

What are the reasons for the going through all of this? A.B.A.T.E. needs the money – that is our life-blood for what we do. But most importantly – to protect, preserve, and defend the integrity and credit the worthiness of A.B.A.T.E. The world needs to have confidence in our business practices.

BIKER CHICK

Once upon a time, there was a bantam rooster. Since it looked different than the regal all white Leghorns, about a third of their size and brownish, it pretty much lived a life outside the chicken world being that he was the only one of his tribe in that flock. I think he decided that since he was not one of them he would hang with us – the need to belong somewhere must be universal. And he even had a name – Chicken George. An amazing thing was that he had learned to ride on a platform in front of the handlebars of a bicycle. So it didn’t take much for it/him to transfer the bicycle perching skills to motorcycle perching skills. Here is how that happened. One summer, a neighbor had some friends visit from the Chicago area. They brought with them motorcycles that needed stored “for a while”. I didn’t know then, what I probably do know now, about those motorcycles. Just guessing but I am reasonably sure, now, that then, there was some confusion as to ownership. So for one good part of a summer we had to make sure that these motorcycles were properly exercised – for the rightful owners of course. And so did the biker chick. Nothing more amusing than watching this biker chick perched at the top of a buddy seat on an old knuckle going down the road at about 50 mph. Something about the wind I guess, especially when you have small or no wings.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor
ABATE Legal Services

Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at (800) 25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to RodTaylor@abatelegalcom. © 2013.

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