New Castle News

October 6, 2012

Josh Drespling: Disclaimer — I’m not responsible for what’s in this blog

Josh Drespling
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Imagine yourself walking into a restaurant of your choice with your friends and family in anticipation of a filling and delightful meal.

As you step into the foyer, you are greeted by a pleasant and friendly hostess or maitre'd. The restaurant is clean and inviting. Elegant music is playing softly in the background and the light chatter of the other guests can be heard throughout the establishment.

You and your party are quickly escorted to your table and prepare to partake of divine sustenance. Your waiter approaches your table and places a piece of paper into your hands and in the hands of each of your family members. He then explains the specials and wine choices.

As the waiter concludes his address and turns to walk away from your table, you glance down at the paper that he had just given you. You read in disbelief and amazement. In large bold letters at the top are the words “LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY.” The article goes on to describe how the restaurant will not be liable for any harm that may befall you as a result of being in their establishment or partaking of their services. It also describes how, even though they run a professional business and are charging you for their service, they are by no means obligated to protect your safety, nor are they required to prepare your food with care or adhere to any health regulations.

This disclaimer also states that by accepting and reading this paper, the holder acknowledges and agrees to be bound by the provision contained within and that the management will not assume any liability from loss of any kind.

Now, that is quite a disturbing scenario. If I was presented with such a document in a restaurant I am sure that I would leave rather abruptly. Such a document does not lend itself to instilling any level of confidence in the professionalism or competency of any business.

I did not receive one of these “contracts” at a restaurant, but I have on multiple occasions received a similar agreement from parking lots and valet services.  

Why is it acceptable for a parking lot to accept no liability for their lack of ability to operate a safe and responsible business? We hold food service business, often staffed by our teenage kids, to such a high standard that if you go to McDonald's and spill your own coffee on your lap, or even get too fat from eating their food, you can sue and conceivably win a multimillion-dollar settlement.

On the other hand,  a parking garage can burn their building down with your car inside, wreck your car, even steal all your change and your Lynyrd Skynyrd greatest hits CD, and they are free from responsibility simply because they said so on a piece of paper.

I've read the Bhagavad Gita, but that doesn’t mean I accept it as truth. I've also read many other documents and they have not instantly become binding contracts. I have even read contracts between me and record companies that I have ultimately rejected the terms of. My refusal to sign and accept the terms nullified the obligation of both parties in the contract.  

Using the same logic employed by these companies, I could put a sign around my neck and state that I'm not liable for murder and run around like a serial killer with complete immunity. Although that sounds inviting, it is simply not feasible.

The parking companies try to shirk their responsibility in these situations, but let me be the first to tell you that they carry insurance for just such an occasion. I actually worked for one of these organizations while in college and they had a full-time person who dealt with all the damage, theft, and loss claims. They regularly paid for damages caused while on their property, in spite of the crafty ticket they gave every single person that entered their establishments.

I guess they are responsible, but they just don't want you to know it.