What do people think about RS "Release and Waiver Agreement"? Is it comparable to those for other tour companies? Has anyone had it checked out with a lawyer? I fully understand that travel is always at my own risk, and certainly wouldn't sue anyone for anything other than serious intentional misconduct, which I wouldn't expect to happen any in any case. And I understand why it's needed; they'd be sued by people who just didn't like their hotel and so have to have that protection. But it seems fairly broad to sign away all rights to any claim for any thing forever.
Very very generally, relevant Washington state law will not allow a waiver that 1) is against public policy or 2) is a result of action that is far below the standard of care. I see waivers all the time. They drive me nuts. I usually sign them. Sometimes I mark them up with deletions and cross-outs and sometimes I leave them as is. In the event that a company has me sign something that is so heinous as to be against public policy, I assume I'll have to have Washington courts sort it out if a problem arises. Mostly I hope for the best and assume I'd never need to file suit over a claim.
I'd try a lot of informal settlement things before I'd sue over a release and waiver but there's plenty of Washington case law about these issues. So if you don't like your Rome hotel, I don't think the Washington courts will much care. But if a tour bus runs over your foot in Athens in some sort of clear gross negligence situation, I would think you'd stand some chance. And more importantly, I hope the company's legal counsel people would be wise enough to know that Washington law won't support them in the end, even after protracted litigation, and so they would find some middle ground to make things right.
Just my two cents worth...and my opinion only - no promises.
As far as I understand waivers, you have summed it up pretty well Valerie. From what I've read, the courts generally uphold these except in the case of egregious negligence. And RS appears to have covered all bases in terms of having a solid waiver. For example, it's clearly written and presented on its own with plenty of time to look it over. Will I sign it? Yes, because I must do so (apparently without alteration, as stated near the end) to be allowed to participate, I feel that a reputable tour company would try to make serious mistakes right, and anyway I wouldn't sue over any of those accidental things listed--stuff happens. It does seem overly broad to me, but perhaps that is because it is so clearly written, using words like "forever" rather than some legalese phrase that would obscure the point.
What do I think of RS release and waiver? I have gone on 13 RS tours and therefore have signed such a document for all 13 of them as well as for the 14th RS tour coming in May. Have I ever had it checked out by a lawyer? Not in my lifetime.. I would suggest that if you are concerned about signing the RS document you look elsewhere to see what other tour companies use for their similar releases and waivers. I am afraid that I have other demands on my time that preclude me from taking any action on this.
You must admit that the RSE "Release and Waiver Agreement" is among the most entertaining out there.
I've considered crossing out some of the material, but on the whole it comes down to trusting common sense. I know that we're not going to get bent out of shape if we don't like our guide, or if we have to share a bathroom more than one night on a RSE tour. (Although there are people who would, evidently.)
My DH, one year, actually read the agreement, and waxed indignant. "Is this what we signed last year?? They've changed it!" Well, no, they hadn't. It was the same boilerplate it had been for all the years (10, now) we've been taking RS tours.
If you want something to ponder, read the EULAs that come with any software you buy, download, or access on the web. Call me naive, but I trust RSE to do the right thing, and I hope they think the same of me. But I do read every word of every agreement that I sign, or whose box I check on websites.
(There is one local website that we refuse to sign up for, even though it would be very useful, because it all but asks for our souls and/or firstborn.)
Jane, yes it is entertaining--as was your post! I too read everything before I sign it, just like my mama taught me, including those software agreements. Or how about airline contracts of carriage: "purchase of a ticket does not guarantee transportation." I think at some point, given that these waivers are everywhere, you just have to trust that people will behave well.
The general rule is you can't absolve yourself from you own gross negligence with a waiver.
But do they really include things like shared bathrooms? Is there a way to read the waiver form online, without signing up for a tour?