Quick thoughts and how waivers used by promoters are not nearly as good as they think they are.

Greetings from Las Vegas, NV. On the road for what has turned into a working vacation, as they all are at some point. Before, we get to today’s topic we want to touch upon a few quick points.

  • Very saddened to hear about the death of Tony Gwynn. An amazing baseball player who mastered the art of hitting. More importantly, a classy man. One of the pride of Long Beach Poly in both on-field and off the field accomplishments. A shining example to others who became “Mr. Padre” and in many ways, “Mr. San Diego”. He will be missed.
  • I want to thank those of you have given us feedback on this blog. I hope this continues because, like working a match, interaction with the audience is key. Some of you are already asking for topics that I think will be very interesting and challenging.

With that said,┬álet us take on today’s topic. We take a break from the Ted Dibiase-Mr.R angle to take a quick look at waivers. Anyone who has worked a show has probably been asked to sign a liability waiver. These waivers, often pulled from some website and having not been reviewed by a lawyer in years, supposedly relieve the promoter (and often the venue) of any liability should something go wrong. I can not tell you how many times I have seen promoters be insistent on getting these signed and I often sign them without reservation. Of course, after becoming a lawyer I had no problem signing them because I knew they were not worth much and under the right circumstances, I could still get money if something went wrong.


What? How? The Waiver says you are accepting the risk for wrestling and you know it is dangerous. Yes, it does. Essentially those releases recognizing that every one of us that steps into a wrestling ring is accepting the risk. The acceptance of the risk for an inherently dangerous activity is a long-established defense and legal principle that essentially states we knew the job was dangerous when we took it. Therefore, when Johnny Goldfinger does an overhead back suplex to me that herniates three of my discs, I can not hold the promoter accountable any more than Joe Theisman can hold the NFL responsible for Lawrence Taylor snapping his leg like a snap pea.

I thought so. So the waivers DO protect promoters? Protect them being held liable for injuries caused by a wrestling match that are foreseeable and a regular risk of the activity? Indeed, they can protect promoters from such liability. But, it does not protect promoters from their own stupidity. In other their words, their own negligence.

But the waiver says that the wrestler is absolving the promoter of all negligence. It may say that. But, there is a public policy exception. As a general rule, we as a society do not want people to just contract away all responsibility, especially when there may be an unequal relationship between the parties. Accordingly, there are some things where businesses will find that its’ waiver is useless. Negligence is just such an area.

So what is Negligence? Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in similar circumstances. I understand that by using the term “reasonably prudent person” and “wrestling promoter” it may seem like we are talking about two completely different animals, but we are not. Think of it this way: That little backwater promoter who stiffs almost everyone and takes no care for the worker safety is not the benchmark. The promoter who runs his business like a business and follows common sense dictates is the standard. Negligence also requires the elements of

  • Duty of care;
  • Breach of that Duty;
  • Causation (factual and legal);
  • Harm.

Every Promoter has a duty of care to the talent. I can not emphasize this enough. Each promoter has a duty to ensure that the equipment being used is in safe working order. Every promoter should have answers to these questions before each and every wrestling show:

  • Who is supplying the ring and are all parts in safe condition?
  • Is the ring apron sanitary?
  • Who is inspecting the equipment before each show?
  • Who is inspecting the equipment after each show?
  • What security precautions have been taken to protect the talent from unruly fans?
  • What safety instructions were given to the talent prior to the show?
  • What safety precautions have been taken to protect the fans ?
  • Were the wrestlers on the card in a condition to work?
  • Were any wrestlers under the influence of drugs or alcohol while performing and were their opponents aware of this before the match?

You can say these are grown men and women all you want, but if a promoter is allowing impaired people to perform on his shows, he will soon learn that a good lawyer will crush those waivers like an apple in the hands of Danny Hodge.

The legendary Danny Hodge, foe to apples everywhere.
The legendary Danny Hodge, foe to apples everywhere.