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Fine Print Defeats Liability Release Clause in Contract
Description Texas high court held that a release form, in minuscule typeface, failed to shift risk to motorcyclist killed in amateur race. Release did not provide adequate notice by using larger or contrasting type.
Topic Contracts
Key Words Fine Print, Release Form
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Novice motorcycle rider Walton was killed while participating in a motorcycle race when he struck an uncovered metal rail. His widow sued the track operator for wrongful death. Lower courts dismissed the suit because Walton had signed a "six-paragraph release printed in minuscule typeface on the front of a one-page 'Release and Entry Form'." Plaintiff appealed.
Decision "Because the release is not conspicuous, we reverse...." Risk-shifting clauses must satisfy two fair notice requirements. "First, a party's intent to be released for all liability caused by its own future negligence must be expressed in unambiguous terms within the four corners of the contract. Second, the clause must be 'conspicuous' under the objective standards defined in the Uniform Commercial Code." The UCC holds that such clauses are conspicuous "when it is so written that a reasonable person against whom it is to operate ought to have noticed it," such as in larger type or contrasting color.
Citation Littlefield v. Schaefer, 955 S.W.2d 272 (Sup. Ct., Tex., 1997)

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