The singer Meat Loaf is suing a Dallas hotel and the planners of a horror convention, claiming negligence when he fell from a stage while answering questions from convention-goers last May, a situation that theoretically could be covered in a hold harmless clause.
Meat Loaf, whose real name is Michael Lee Aday, and wife Deborah Lee Gillespie Aday filed the suit against the Hyatt Corp. and Texas Frightmare Weekend LLC, and it remains to be seen if a hold harmless clause was part of the contract.
We reached out to John S. Foster, Esq., an attorney, author, speaker and consultant about his take on this lawsuit.
“Liability will fall to whoever was in charge of constructing the stage and making sure it was safe and whether they were negligent in the way they designed and/or constructed the stage. If there was no negligence, then there will be no liability,” he explains. “There may also be some ‘contributory negligence’ involved on Meatloaf’s part. Did he get too close to the edge and fall off because he wasn’t paying attention?”
A similar mishap happened to Foster when he was speaking to a group during an MPI event. “It was 100 percent my fault and although I hurt my back, I was too embarrassed to complain.”
In the case involving Meat Loaf, Foster says there are many factors to consider. “If contributory negligence is found, then most states apply the ‘comparative negligence’ rule to allocate liability. For instance, if the damages are found to be $100,000, the jury could find that the injured party’s actions contributed to the injury 60 percent, and the other party (ies) negligence was/were only 40 percent responsible. The damages awarded would then be reduced by 60 percent, and the injured party would only get $40,000.”
Planners can protect themselves by having “indemnification and hold harmless” clauses in every contract with hotels, and with outside companies, they may hire to construct the stage, suggests Foster. A hold harmless and indemnification clause would transfer the liability to the hotel or the staging company, as applicable, and protect the planner and event sponsor in a lawsuit. In other words, since planners and meeting sponsors aren’t stage construction experts, they need to transfer the liability to the people and companies that hold themselves as experts when they provide materials and/or services to planners.
A well-written indemnification and hold harmless clause or agreement will also include a requirement that the party agreeing to indemnify have liability insurance that will fund any damages if liability is found.
“All of my vendor contracts have indemnification and hold harmless clauses with insurance requirements. If they don’t have the clauses when I get them, I add them to the contract,” he explains.
To contact, Foster, go to John.Foster@FJGLaw.net.
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