The final concept in my 7 tips for contracts and business deals is Ridiculous. When I run across terms so one-sided, or so ridiculous in a contract, I have to question it and challenge the provider. In Advocating for Yourself, I cover in detail a click through agreement that I was asked to sign before being allowed to participate in an activity the facility offered. Their click through basically stated that they would not be liable to me for any damage, including bodily injury, or death, even if it was caused by their negligence, even if they know, or could have known that I would be injured. In addition, they could hold me accountable for any damage caused to anyone else in my group. Did I sign? It was a team activity, so sure, I signed. The contract was so ridiculous that it still wouldn’t preclude me from bringing a claim if they caused me harm. One can’t just state in an agreement that they can do anything they want and put your life at risk and they are not responsible if something happens to you.
For example, I can’t just open up a business, and invite people in when I know it is not up to code. If there are weak places in the floor where I know someone could fall through if they walked on it, or other dangers such as this, I can’t just say, sorry, I’m not responsible. Even if I ask them to sign an agreement saying that any harm that comes to them from my negligence is on them.
This is one of the many ridiculous terms in agreements that I’ve ran across in my years of contract review. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if the terms are so one sided to the benefit of the product, or service provider that it seems all the risk is placed on you. If the agreement relieves the provider of any liability, even if they purposely do something to hurt you, this would not hold up under a dispute. It would be like me entering into a contract with every driver on the road that, no matter how recklessly I drive, if I injure them, I’m not responsible. Always challenge contract terms that you don’t understand, or agree with.
One goal of law – as we learn in law school from the first day of contracts – is to deter bad behavior. -Marvin Ammori