Ask Our Lawyer – March 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

WHAT NOT TO DO AND SAY AFTER YOU GET RUN OVER NO MATTER HOW BAD YOU WANT TO

 A little old Lady pulled into his path as he traveled down the highway.  The description of the collision is memorable.   Ground Hog (name changed to protect the innocent) (around 450 lbs.) was slowly ejected from his motorcycle by the impact (Isaac Newton is right).  He did a complete summersault.  Witnesses described Ground Hog’s contact with the pavement as painful sounding.  Surrounding witnesses were said to have groaned in unison.  Ground Hog arose from the ground and immediately entered the driver’s side of the elderly lady’s car to have a discussion.  You can imagine what was said.  Witnesses describe her leaving the scene of an accident running as amazing, since she was 82.  Several witnesses vividly recall her screams as shriek like.  Others tried to catch her and calm her – to no avail.   Her car, Ground Hog in it, was still there when the cops arrived to investigate.  The police report was one of the most humorous ever written. Moral of the story. Do the best you can to keep your anger and vocabulary to yourself, especially if the adverse is a little old lady.  Everything you say will be used by the adverse insurance company to portray you as somehow undeserving.  The facts and your injuries speak for themselves.  Let them.

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

Q.   Rod. We are having a Charity 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?  ABATE 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 run. What I fear is that a participant on our 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. So the better way to accomplish getting a knowingly signed waiver is to have a separate waiver for each participant.  Remember – you do not need a waiver until you need a waiver.

WAIVER OVERSEERS ARE A MUST FOR RUNS

Q.   I was at your seminar presentation put on by ABATE. 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? ABATE 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 numerous 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 may be critical if 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 “trespassing?” Who’s got our back on this one? Or, how do we cover our backside?  ABATE OF OHIO MEMBER.

A.   A sign that declares that all participants in the ride must sign a waiver will help. 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.  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.

HOW MUCH INSURANCE DO WE NEED ANYWAY?

Q.  We have a few questions regarding ABATE event insurance we are hoping you might be able to assist with. We of course get a Certificate of Insurance (COI) from the state office for our sanctioned events for the specific day and event location, but what should we be requiring, if anything, from vendors that might set up at our event? Should we be requesting COI’s (to CYA) from all vendors? Maybe for only food/alcohol/equipment vendors? We are looking for the best route that covers ABATE, the officers, the event itself, and of course the participants. However ,on the flip side of that we realize that not all vendors might be an established business (such as artsy/craftsy vendors) and might not be able to obtain a COI for the event if requested. If you could please provide any information and input on this, we would greatly appreciate it! Thank you. – ABATE MEMBER

A.  As much as we can reasonably get is the short answer.  Certificates of Insurance should be obtained from all food and alcohol vendors – always and no exceptions.  Also included in that compulsory list are those who provide unique services and items for entertainment.  Keep in mind that many of the arts and crafts-type vendors may not have insurance, so we are relying on the waiver/release that is required for admission for all attendees to cover us.  However, we should require an indemnification agreement from these vendors just in case our waiver for attendees is held unenforceable.  This means that if any of the vendors screw up and injure one of our attendees, and we get sued, we have a claim against that vendor.  Our required Waiver/Release, if enforceable, should get the vendor off the hook along with us, as they are generally identified in our waiver.  If our waiver is determined unenforceable for some reason, we may be able to hold that vendor responsible so that we are not paying for his sins.  But remember that the reason those vendors do not have insurance is because they do not have much money.  So good luck to us collecting from them.

AND I THOUGHT WE HAD THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT – THE COWBOY CASE

Q.  My wife and I were pulled over by a local police officer for having a cracked windshield. My wife was driving and I was in the passenger seat. It was 8:30 AM and we were on our way home from working a midnight shift. The car is in my wife’s name. The officer asked for my wife’s license and proof of insurance which she handed to him. Then the officer looks at me and says he wants my ID also. I asked him what I did wrong, and he said to just give him my ID which I reluctantly did. He came back to the car and gave my wife a warning for the cracked windshield and didn’t say a word to me. Did I have to give the officer my ID even though I wasn’t driving, the car wasn’t in my name, and I committed no crime? All I was doing was sitting quietly in the passenger seat with my seatbelt on. – ABATE members

A.  Well, my worst angels would want to tell the officer to go pound sand, but I’m afraid the answer is that you’re most likely required to provide basic identification to the investigating officer. Since you were not driving, you had no obligation to carry a driver’s license, but if you had it in your billfold or access to it in your car, I believe the courts would rule against you if you failed to produce your driver’s license. The U. S. Supreme Court did not serve us well in what I call the “cowboy case.” In that case we had an independent-minded citizen from the West who thought he had the right to remain silent when asked by the local cops to give his name. He refused and was promptly charged, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the rest is history as they say. In today’s climate of I.D. paranoia and hyper-surveillance, I believe the Courts would have ruled against you if you had refused to surrender your driver’s license. At the very least, I bet the cop would have given your wife a ticket–-with a fine–for the cracked windshield. You know, some folks are like that.

There are a few states that also have “stop and identify statutes,” which require individuals to comply with police requests for identification. In Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, such cooperation is required when the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a criminal offense, or that the person witnessed an act of violence or an act which would create a risk of serious physical harm to another person or to property. In those cases, the person is required to give his or her name, address, and date of birth. The statute in Indiana is much broader, requiring that a person provide either his or her name, address, and date of birth or a driver’s license, if in the person’s possession. Illinois requires that if an officer reasonably infers from the circumstances that the person is committing, is about to commit or has committed an offense, he may demand the name and address of the person and an explanation of his actions. In Missouri, officers have the power “to stop any person abroad whenever there is reasonable ground to suspect that he is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime and demand of him his name, address, business abroad, and whither he is going”(although it appears that this provision may only extend to officers in Kansas City – see Mo. Rev. Stat. §84.710(2).

For some interesting reading, check out the following US Supreme Court cases: INS v. Delgado, 466 U. S. 210, 216 (1984), Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968), United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U. S. 873, 881 (1975).

TRADEMARKING ABATE CHAPTER NAMES AND EVENTS

Q.  We have a chapter name that we are very proud of, along with chapter events that are very important fundraisers for our organization. Do we have to do anything legally to protect our interest in that name? – ABATE Member

A.  We receive inquiries about trademarking the names of regions/chapters and their events several times a year. Technically, a trade name is not considered a trademark or entitled to protection under trademark laws unless it is accompanied by a product or service. If a name is used to identify a service or event, the name will then be considered a trademark and entitled to protection if it is distinctive enough.

A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination used or intended to be used, in business, to identify and distinguish an event or organization. One of the good things about trademarks as opposed to patents is that trademarks have protection forever, as long as they are being used.

 So, should our organization trademark an event and its name? The first question you should consider is: why do you want the trademark? Are you simply trying to determine whether anyone else can interfere with your ability to use the name in connection with your chapter events? Or are you interested in obtaining a federal trademark in order to have broader ability to prevent others from using it? Do you plan to have additional events in other geographic locations? The answers to these questions will help determine how important a federal trademark may be to your organization.

The common law provides for protection if you do nothing more than use the name and were the first to utilize the name in connection with a particular event. This common law protection would extend to the area of use, so in the case of an event, it would prohibit someone from having an event with the same name in the same area.  One is afforded greater legal protection when the name of the event is federally trademarked. The process for obtaining the federal trademark would also help you determine what other competing marks exist, if any, that may interfere with your claim to the name in connection with the event. However, obtaining a federal trademark can be expensive, especially if there are competing marks that may pose a barrier to getting your mark approved. To use my favorite lawyer hedge word, it really depends on your organizations’ goals regarding the use of the name in question.

ARGUING WITH COPS IS OK IN ILLINOIS, OHIO, INDIANA AND MAYBE EVERYWHERE ELSE

Q.   I was stopped by the police on my motorcycle. When I tried to argue with him about the facts, he told me to shut up or I was going to jail. Do I have the constitutional right to argue with a police officer about an arrest? – ABATE Member.

A.   Many are under the assumption that once you are stopped and questioned by a police officer, you have no right to debate your position with the officer. Wrong. An Illinois Appellate Court, along with courts in Indiana and Illinois, has reaffirmed our basic right to argue our position with an investigating police officer. However, one needs to be mindful that an errant cop has the ability to charge you with resisting and obstruction. In the Illinois case, the prosecution told the jury that the defendant had no right to argue with the police officer. On appeal, the Court held that this was a gross misstatement of the law and reversed the conviction. We have and should always have the right to call into question the facts of an officer’s arrest. This probably goes without saying, but once you’ve made your point, it’s wise to clam up. Now, are you resisting if you are on a cell phone? No, but it could become resisting if you persist in refusing to get off the phone when requested.

So to sum up, according to the Court, nothing in the law suggests that you can’t initially question the validity of the officer’s actions. Certainly you can ask why you are being arrested, and you can point out the officer’s mistake(s) and protest and argue against the officer’s actions. That said, if there was ever a time to practice diplomacy, it is when interacting with a police officer. Some of us have found out the hard way that jail is not good. They won’t let you do what you want in jail.

Ride Safe & Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

abatelegal.com

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: RodTaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2020.

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