I can not tell a lie, and having read Jonathan Morrison response to you, I would offer to things: (1) Johnathan has obviously been there and done that, as have I (2) If anyone tells you they have an absolutely bulletproof answer to your concern, chances are they are the lawyer about to try and "crush" you.
I will add a couple of things: First, though I have an extensive legal background, I am not a lawyer. Second I have been through this quagmire many times involving private use of public lands, teaching mountain biking, operating hot air balloons for tours..and much more. And yes, some of it in the not for profit space as well. The bottom line is there is no absolute safe guard against the absolute American right and inclination to sue.
You are also correct that a signed waiver or related document is little protection when it comes down to court. You are right again about which side of the bed a given judge gets up on, will decide your fate should it come to it. Welcome to our nation!
Jonathan is also unfortunately right about the less assets or insurance there is to recover from, the less chance of a law suite.
To that end, I would suggest to you this: The greater the separation, the greater the protection. In other words....each and every event you create, should be its own legal entity. This is how its done in the for profit sector as well, and for the same reasons. Likewise your shop should be its own entity. In the event shop personnel are involved in an event, they must be part of both of those entities or "leased to" the temporary entity.
The money, if any substantial amount exists, should be held in yet another separate and distinct legal entity. People will make the argument that any transactions between these entities must be "at arms length" or greater to create the needed supports and safety margins and there is truth in this. Even at that though...you are still only mitigating, not bomb proofing the potential liabilities.
So, as was already pointed out, all you can do is be sure to act properly, in a safe and legal manner, and hope your luck holds out. Most likely, thankfully, it will.
I am the president of www.BikesForTykes.org a children's program that refurbishes old bikes into near new condition and then gives them to the underprivileged kids in our area. Even though we are the oldest continuous bike program in the US, we still encounter problems. My question is how most of you handle shop liability and event liability? I see a lot of posting about having kids work on their bikes, however the 'hold not responsible' forms you have people sign just will not do it in a court of law. The only close to 'protected' way is to have shop and event liability through an insurance company and get your 'not hold responsible' forms signed. Even then it is not a 'sure thing'. It all depends on the judge. Has anyone run this by an attorney? What did he/she have to say and where do you get the insurance from? One injury to a child and a parent out to make an example out of any of us and your program is toast!!! I have not got the best answer so I am asking all of you what you have done. Sincerely, Skip Riffle, Pres. Bikes For Tykes, Inc. www.BikesForTykes.org Skip@BikesForTykes.org 238-450-3366 cell
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