Millions of thrill-seeking tourists visit Florida every year, and many of them engage in risky activities like jet skiing, parasailing, skydiving, scuba diving, and bouncing in these new giant trampoline warehouses called Sky Zones. Most of the owners and operators of those for-profit businesses require participants to sign waivers and releases promising not to sue them if the participants are injured or killed. But are those releases enforceable in Florida if you get hurt?
ARIZONA WOMAN DROWNS IN KEYS DIVING ACCIDENT
On the morning of the dive that led to her death, Mrs. Diodato and her husband arrived late to a scheduled deep-water dive. Rather than have her companions wait for the Diodatos to read and sign a special release used for deep-water diving, the dive instructor, who was also sued for her wrongful death, relied on a release the couple had signed a few days before. That diving instructor had assumed the release would be valid for an entire year provided that a certain box
was checked on the back of the document. Even though the “valid-for-a-year” box was not checked and the release that was previously signed was not the kind that is used for deep-water diving, a Miami trial judge dismissed the Diodatos’ case.
This week, a Florida appellate court invalidated the release signed by that Arizona woman, Aviva Diodato, who drowned to death while she and her husband were scuba diving in the Florida Keys. Justice was served by the 3rd District Court of Appeal in the case of Diodato v. Islamorada Asset Management. I am sure
FLORIDA’S RELEASE LAW
Releases for risky activities like scuba diving are enforceable under Florida law provided the “scope” and “term” are clear and reasonable. The scope of a release must reasonably address the hazardous activity which a person is about to undertake at the participant’s own risk. The term of a release refers to how long the activity will take.
In the Diodato case, the court found that both the scope and term of a deep-water dive were different–both in the activity and degree of risk–from the type of scuba diving referenced in the releases she had signed only a few days earlier. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the case and sent the case back for a jury to decide.
SHOULD YOU SIGN A RELEASE?
As a boat-accident lawyer in Miami, I applaud the appellate court’s decision. Whether or not Mrs. Diodato would have signed the release if she had arrived on time is not the point. I am tired of seeing for-profit businesses evade justice simply because an excited tourist or parent signs a complex typed ironclad legal document that prevents holding a corporation responsible when its customers are injured or killed.
I may not be the most popular parent at my kid’s PTA meetings or at my own family’s dinner table, but as a lawyer who understands Florida’s law, I urge anyone who is asked to sign a waiver or release to do so carefully, fully understanding the risks of a given activity. If the business really did not think there was a good chance that an injury would occur, they would not need a release for it.
MIAMI BOATING ACCIDENTS LAWYER
Since 1991, my cruise accident lawyers have been dedicated to holding businesses, hotels, shopping malls, cruise lines, and theme parks responsible for putting their profit ahead of the safety of people. If you have been hurt on a Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, or Norwegian Cruise Ship, email or call me at 1-866-597-4529 today for a free initial consultation.