Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/08/2003 08:05 AM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 175-LIABILITY:RECREATIONAL ACTIVITY/BOATS CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 175, version \S, to be up for consideration. SENATOR FRENCH noted that bungee jumpers were added to the list in the S version. He asked what spectrum of activities they would cover and if dude ranches were added. SENATOR ELLIS asked if there were dude ranches in Alaska. CHAIR SEEKINS said he heard there were several dude ranch organizations around Denali Park. SENATOR FRENCH asked if the liability of his son's Solid Rock Camp would be affected. CHAIR SEEKINS said he didn't know if that would qualify as a dude ranch, but most of those activities were covered under HB 176, livestock activities, on the floor today. He said they would put SB 175 aside temporarily. SB 175-LIABILITY:RECREATIONAL ACTIVITY/BOATS CHAIR SEEKINS announced CSSB 175(JUD) to be up for consideration. He noted that bungee jumping and parasailing were now in the bill. MR. MIKE WINDRED, Alaska Travel Industry Association and Alaska Travel Adventures, supported SB 175. He said he was speaking on behalf of the industry and one of the larger companies. About 90 percent of the companies in the industry have five or fewer employees, which means they have much less ability to absorb increases in insurance costs. As nuisance suits go up and insurance rates climb (theirs went from 10 percent of pretax profits to 13 percent of pretax profits), it means that most of their employees won't get a substantial pay raise. Most of their company costs are fairly fixed and this bill would definitely help them give their employees some of the money they had planned on getting - for profit sharing and retirement and to pay raises. SENATOR OGAN asked if they provide those kinds of recreational services. MR. WINDRED replied they do everything - from lake canoeing, hiking tours, the salmon bake, etc. SENATOR OGAN asked if he thinks he has any responsibility to inform people who are using their services that they are using them at their own risk if this law is passed. MR. WINDRED replied yes, they do have a responsibility to inform participants of the inherent risks associated with the activity. They have people sign a sheet of paper saying they are aware of the risks and keep them for quite a while. SENATOR OGAN said those sheets of paper are more like a waiver, which is more like a psychological contract than a binding contract, because at the end of the day, a person can still sue. MR. WINDRED replied their sheets are not waivers; they are risk assumption sheets. They explain both verbally and in writing what the inherent risks are for that activity. They acknowledge what those risks are and have the opportunity not to go at that point. They are not waiving any rights to be able to sue. CHAIR SEEKINS said he thought this bill limited any liability of the providers of the sports events to negligence that is not associated with the inherent risk of the activity. MR. FORD said there is a provision on page 3, (c)(1), that specifies negligence of a provider that was not the result of the inherent risk. SENATOR OGAN asked if it was an inherent risk if someone incorrectly instructed you to put a piton in wrong for rock climbing. MR. FORD responded that is one of the key issues. Opinions can differ on what would be an inherent risk. The court or another reasonable person could agree with him or not. This kind of legislation is hard to craft because the rules we have occur in real fact situations where real people exist.... but, to come up with a rule that applies to all situations, you run into what I call the generic language... SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if language on page 2, line 29, saying that a person assumes inherent risk in a sport or recreation activity whether those risks are known or unknown is in there. MR. FORD replied that he thought they were trying to say they are not going to depend on the knowledge of the person who participates. This was not his language and he was a little confused about its meaning. He felt that an inherent risk would have to be known by the participant. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked where the language came from. MR. FORD said it came from a woman in Anchorage and she came up with a rewrite of the original bill. MS. LINDA ANDERSON, Alaska Travel Industry Association, said this language came from an attorney in Anchorage who has tried a number of these cases. CHAIR SEEKINS said there might some inherent risks someone might not know about and they were trying to get to what is common sense, although that differs from one person to another. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Ford what would be lost if that sentence fragment were deleted. MR. FORD replied he didn't think it would greatly affect the bill. It raises the issue of whether those risks are unknown or known, but the question is to whom. He assumed it meant the person who participates, but he felt if it was unknown to the person, how could it be inherent. SENATOR THERRIAULT moved on page 2, line 29, to delete ", whether risks are known or unknown,". There was no objection and it was so ordered. SENATOR OGAN motioned to pass CSSB 175(JUD), version \S, from committee with attached zero fiscal note and asked for unanimous consent. There was no objection and it was so ordered.