South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Exculpatory Agreements Not Favor as Part of Employment Bargain
Description

Connecticut high court held that an exculpatory agreement that was a liability waiver, that all employees had to sign, was in violation of public policy and could not be enforced. The employee had the right to sue the employer for injuries suffered.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Exculpatory Agreement; Public Policy

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Brown worked for the Skip Barber Racing School. The school offered the public one-day advanced driving classes focused on accident avoidance and prevention. The driving took place in a restricted area and everyone, including instructors, signed a liability waiver holding the school harmless for any injuries incurred. A client, driving with an instructor in the passenger seat, ran into Brown, who was in a restricted area waving a flag to signal drivers. Brown sued the school and others involved for his injuries. The trial court granted the school summary judgment because of the liability waiver Brown had signed. He appealed.

Decision

Reversed. Contracts that violate public policy are unenforceable. The courts consider factors that may be relevant given the facts and social expectations to determine if an exculpatory agreement violates public policy. This agreement was given to employees on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. If Brown did not sign, he could not work. The employer possessed a decisive advantage of bargaining strength against employees. In general, exculpatory agreements in the employment context are held to violate public policy.

Citation

Brown v. Soh, 909 A.2d 43 (Sup. Ct., Conn., 2006)

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