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Can a club member sue an employee of the club for personal injury incurred due entirely to employee's negligence? Thank you.

Port Angeles, WA |

I am a member of a sailing club. Nine weeks ago I fell into the water between docks, tearing a back muscle and I am still in pain. The apron between the 2 docks had not been secured by the club employee responsible for maintenance. Other club members witnessed the event. In the past other members have often reported to the commodore and executive that aprons are loose. At the very least I would like a written reprimand for negligence placed on the employee's personal file. The employee has been employed at the club for 25 years. Many members would like him dismissed but are worried he may be entitled to severance pay. If a written letter of reprimand for negligence is now placed on his personal file by the commodore and executive would that be sufficient to dismiss him

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Attorney answers 6


Interesting. Sorry this happened to you. I have not heard of such a thing but my gut tells me yes, you likely could sue for negligence. It would likely ne the club that would be responsible for your injuries and mental distress because thus guy was in the courae of employment acting as a legal agent dor the club. You may want to obtain a free consultation from a local attorney. My guess is that your club would want to do right by you as well if it values the safety of its members. And if it is true that others have comlainted in the past and still the club did not make the aprons mre secure, it appears pretty likely that the club is responsible here. I would be happy to get more infrmation and details andprocide my opinion to you. Thanks.


Sounds like a dangerous condition, and a local personal injury lawyer can investigate.


Consult with a local personal injury attorney.


I agree with my colleague but would like to add that you need to see a doctor immediately if you are still injured as you will likely not be entitled to much if any compensation if you do not have documentation from a doctor about your injuries and treat for those injuries. I offer free consultations and would be more than happy to look at your case for you and give you my opinion. Just go to my AVVO homepage for my contact information. Good luck.


Probably. But don't try to do it yourself. First, see a doctor if you are still in pain. Then consult with a local attorney. I am sure you can find one who will consult with you for free, and many will work for a percentage of the recovery, with no hourly fees.

I used to work mostly for insurance companies, and I can assure you that, 99.7% of the time, you can get more money in your pocket if you bite the bullet and see an attorney. Insurance companies just don't take people seriously if they don't have an attorney.


One thing you should check is whether you signed a release as part of the membership or renewal process.

Releases (or waivers) are used to protect certain kinds of businesses and their employees from personal injury claims.

Even if you did sign a waiver you may still have a claim.

Here are some highlights from the courts:

Releases of liability are disfavored under Washington law. Glant v. Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, 141 Wash. 253, 262, 251 P. 274 (1926).

In order for a release to be effective, it must appear that the terms of the release were intended by both parties to apply to the particular conduct that has caused the harm. Sweat v. Big Time Auto Racing, Inc., 117 Cal.App.4th 1301, 1307, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 678 (2004).

Pre-injury releases are strictly construed. Vodopest v. MacGregor, 128 Wn.2d 840, 848, 913 P.2d 779 (1996); Scott By and Through Scott v. Pacific West Mountain Resort, 119 Wn.2d 484, 834 P.2d 6 (1992).

To be enforceable, a release must be conspicuous. Stokes v. Bally’s Pacwest, Inc. 113 Wn. App. 442, 445, 54 P.3d 161 (2002).

Exculpatory clauses are enforceable only if they are clear. Scott v. Pac. W. Mountain Resort, 119 Wn.2d 484, 490, 834 P.2d 6 (1992). Ambiguous releases are unenforceable and the terms of a release are construed strictly against the defendant. Id.

They are enforceable only if their language is sufficiently clear. Chauvlier v. Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc., 109 Wn. App. 334, 339, 340, 35 P.3d 38 (2001). “An exculpatory agreement will not be upheld if ‘the releasing language is so inconspicuous that reasonable persons could reach different conclusions as to whether the document was unwittingly signed.’” Id. at 341, citing McCorkle v. Hall, 56 Wn. App. 80, 83, 782 P.2d 574 (1989) (citing Baker v. City of Seattle, 79 Wn.2d 198, 200, 484 P.2d 405 (1971)), review denied, 114 Wn.2d 1010 (1990).

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