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event organizer liable for hyponatremia?(48 posts)

event organizer liable for hyponatremia?DougSloan
May 22, 2002 2:33 PM
Take a look at this California case. What do you think?

I think that it is frivolous as all hellAhimsa
May 22, 2002 2:54 PM
I'm sure that fluids were provided at a freakin' marathon. How can an organizer be responsible for a runner's lack of scruples?

You can lead a horse to water....

You can give a runner Gatorade...

I'm sure he'll sue the shoe company next for negligence because they manufactured a shoe that made it possible for him to participate in such a dangerous event.

Sheesh. Stop clogging the courts people. Do we need to hold the hand of every moron adult to make sure they don't hurt themselves with their poor judgement skills?

Maybe put the warning labels on the PEOPLE instead.

"CAUTION: I lack the common sense God gave a donkey, and will sue you when I inevitabley harm myself"

actually donkeys are well endowed..colker
May 23, 2002 8:08 AM
when it comes to common sense. ever try to doctrinate a donkey in religious matters, political fanaticisms or convince them to buy a backstreet boys cd? they won't follow..
sounds triable to memr_spin
May 22, 2002 3:10 PM
He has some good points about the race conditions, BUT...he is ultimately responsible for deciding if the poor race conditions could cause him bodily harm. If the race ran out of water and Race Day at certain points and he needed either, he should not have continued on blindly. Would he keep running if the bridge he had to cross was in imminent danger of crashing to the ground? Would he keep running if police were exchanging gunfire across the roadway with criminals barricaded in a house along the route? I doubt it. All these were threats to his health, but apparently he decided lack of water was not.

He can make a triable case, but he should not win.

An analogy would be if your brakes failed while driving, but you could still safely get off the road and out of the car, is someone else responsible if you choose to continue drive and later run into someone or something?
Maybe not that simple...Lon Norder
May 22, 2002 3:38 PM
Probably we've all ridden at one time or another while suffering some degree of dehydration. The Davis Double Century got up to 100 F in '99 and '01, and the Terrible Two boasts "100 degrees" on it's jersey. Determining whether you've reached a DANGEROUS level of dehydration is more difficult than determining that driving without brakes or running amidst gunfire is dangerous
True, but...mr_spin
May 22, 2002 3:51 PM
If they had little or no water at the first stop, and little or no water at the second stop, you can make the logical conclusion BEFORE dehydration sets in and clouds judgement that there may not be sufficient water at the next 20 stops. And that would be an obvious problem to anyone who had trained for marathon distance. It's early and fair warning that this race is messed up, and continuing might not be a good idea. It sucks, because he paid to race, trained for it, etc. and I'm sure he wanted badly to finish it, but sometimes you have to base decisions on rational thought rather than testosterone.

I've pushed myself beyond the brink a couple of times, so I know first hand how hard it is to know its happening. A couple of times I didn't drink enough, and once I ran out. But that falls under the heading of 'stupidity comma my own.' Had I known at the start of the ride that water would limited, I would have taken a different approach, such as not riding, or shortening or varying my route.
in many stateselviento
May 22, 2002 3:45 PM
if both the victim and the defendant were not cautious enough and contributed to the victim's injury, then the defendant can still be liable and the damages awarded will simply be the result of multiplying the total damage by the defendant's share of fault. In this case, I think the organizer has 20% of the fault at most. I mean this guy should just stop since he was dehydrated.
in many statesatpjunkie
May 22, 2002 3:56 PM
if this crap keeps up most sports will be finished. There is danger in sports, if you are the suing, not take any responsiblity for your own actions type for gods sake STAY HOME!! next they'll cancel cyclocross events for fear of frostbite. I can see the headlines Iditarod cancelled TOO COLD. no offense but they should round all these types and their lawyers and ship them somewhere else so the rest of us who understand the inherant dangers can have some fun. For Chrissakes I've torn a calf muscle (cross race and tore a rotator cuff MTB) and I have no intention of suing anyone.
A-holes like this will kill everything. It's why skateboard parks disappeared in the 70's and forced skaters to the street.
atp's post script upon Case Reviewatpjunkie
May 22, 2002 4:08 PM
Hey I reviewed this case and I remember a friend complaining about this event (I live in S.D) and if the sponsor didn't provide adequate fluid they do bear some responsibility. Why didn't the plaintiff hydrate after the race. I just have a hard time thinking they'd lack adequate fluid at a marathon.
At first I thought that it was frivilous, then I read it.look271
May 22, 2002 4:01 PM
I hate to admit it, but I agree with the runner. If they stated that they would have sufficient hydration and did not, then compounded it by delaying the start of the race, I'd have to side with the complaintant.
Of course I'm not trained in law, but...amflyer
May 22, 2002 4:57 PM
...this is the way I look at it.

This person did have the option to pull out of the race, stop at a convienience store, etc at all times. He wasn't forced to continue, or even start. If the argument that "he didn't have a choice" wouldn't fly for LT. Cally at My Lai, how can it work here? The repercussions for stoping in this case were what, a bruised ego and lost entry fees? At some point people HAVE to take responsibility for theirselves...what will be next, holding our parents liable for not raising us correctly and not teaching us that we can become dehydrated? If he has run in races like this before, then he must know the requirements of his body.

Sometimes shit just happens, and everyone looks to others for recompense when it is just fate or bad luck or whatever. Not everyone seized and suffered brain damage; the race obviously wasn't endemically dangerous. I feel bad for the guy, but at some point he has to just realize that in the end,it was his own poor judgement that put him in the position to be rather unlucky on that day.

That's the way I see it.

yeah, butcyclopathic
May 22, 2002 5:16 PM
won't you be pissed when race organazers only care about making $$, not people? Common, how much 6gal jar of water costs? or does it costs much to buy powder Gatoraid at Cosco?
You bet I would be.amflyer
May 22, 2002 5:24 PM
But not pissed enough to keep running if I thought it was going to harm me. I agree that the race sounded like a bad setup. But he had the choice to stop.

It's sort of the old gun control argument--"Guns don't kill people, etc..."

Not having access to electrolyte solution didn't cause his condition, running in spite of that fact did.

re: judgmentcyclopathic
May 23, 2002 6:44 AM
as a guy who's started BMB with light cold and finished with full blown pneumonia, I confess it is not easy to make this kind of judgment when you running high. Even reasonable people make risky decisions.

Personally I sympathize more with the guy then event organizers, they'd known better to take care of simple things. I'll bet the guy is just trying "to get" them, he is not after money..
I am trained in law...elviento
May 22, 2002 5:37 PM
the biggest problem with the law is that the standard for judging negligence is that A REASONABLE MAN would be more careful (or the defendant could have foreseen likely damage)... But in a court room, a reasonable man is almost always more cautious with everything than an ordinary person, therefore it's a fairly demanding standard.

Once I read about a case where a bike shop owner was liable for not installing a light on a bike, because he could have foreseen the victim using the bike at night, and also the likelihood of an accident if a bike is ridden at night without a light. In reality we all know it's bullshit. A shop owner forcing a light on every bike buyer would be considered a jerk.
I think I agree...amflyer
May 22, 2002 5:59 PM
But sometimes all this litigation and finger-pointing makes me want to grow a beard, get a touring bike and ride across the country.

(Ken Kifer reference--)
(Whom I also happen to think is pretty cool too, BTW)

I think this guy should have stayed with 10K fun runs nmgtx
May 22, 2002 5:09 PM
Nah. Then he'd sue 'em for false advertising...Ahimsa
May 22, 2002 5:30 PM
...claiming he didn't have fun as was promised.

Doug.... what's your take on this??????JohnG
May 22, 2002 6:18 PM
After wading through that long doc it sounded like a reasonable "story" to me. I'm no lawyer but I thinks da promoters have "screwed th pooch" with this one. I hope they have insurance because their going to need it.... given the "liberal" courts we got now.

Just my 'opinion' .... so please don't sue me. ;)
Looks like a law school exam questionms
May 22, 2002 6:38 PM
The case reads like a torts exam question. In my personal opinion, the most relevant issues are the representations that the race organizer made about support/hydration and the participant's assumption of the risk/contributory negligence after he realized that the representations were not true. I could argue either side of this case.

For the California lawyers: Could the race organizer have cured the problem by having an ironclad release and/or a disclaimer of any representations in the promotional materials? Or, would a California court view such a release or disclaimer to be unenforceable?
I think the plaintiff has the better case.Spoke Wrench
May 22, 2002 8:14 PM
The race organizer accepted race entry fees and said they were going to provide certain services. For whatever reason, those services were not provided to the degree they were promised. The plantiff has damages which can be attributed to the lack of the promised services.

The plaintiff also flew across the country to participate in the marathon and, I assume, must have spent significant time in prior training to be able to complete the event in around 4 hours. I don't know how reasonable it is to expect an individual who has made that kind of commitment to bail out after only 2 or 3 miles.
have to agreetarwheel
May 23, 2002 4:33 AM
After reading the brief, it appears to me the runner has a decent case and that the race organizers were at best extremely negligent. How many of you have run in a marathon? It takes months of training and you can't do more than a few a year. It is the organizers responsibility to make sure they have enough water, etc. -- that's what the runners are paying for when they register.

I ran in one marathon 20 years ago. It was enough. I felt so shitty for several days afterwards that I decided it couldn't be good for you. However, if during the race I had encountered similar circumstances, I'm not sure what I would have done -- but it is very reasonable to presume that many runners would have gutted it out. You train for months for an event like this, and it's hard to just quit because the stupid organizers didn't stock their rest stops adequately. It's also not very easy stopping to get water or gatorade while in a race like this. How many runners carry money with them, so they could stop in a 7-11? There aren't water fountains conveniently situated along the way, and it's hard running into a store all sweating and only wearing running shorts, to ask for a drink of water. The participants are also running within a large pack, usually, and it's often hard to scope out the area for potential places to get food or drink. Finally, most runners are trying to achieve a certain time or personal best in a run like this. It's hard to stop and waste a bunch of time looking for something to drink.

In conclusion, I think the race organizers really screwed up. I would hope they don't try to organize any more marathons, or at least learn how to do it right. By charging a fee, the organizers assume a certain level of responsibility -- if nothing else, at least to provide enough water for the runners.
one more thing ...tarwheel
May 23, 2002 4:42 AM
Running a marathon is not the same as riding a century. Cyclists can easily carry a fair amount of water on their bikes with bottles or CamelBaks. They also can easily carry extra money, food, and other supplies in their jersey pockets or seat bags. Runners don't have this luxury. When I ran, the most I ever carried was a spare key to my car or house. I never or rarely carried money. When I needed water on a long run, I usually had to hunt pretty hard to find places and often planned my longer runs around known locations for water stops -- such as parks with fountains, fire stations, etc. For a marathon located in an out-of-town city, it would be difficult for a runner to do this.
Point of information:Me Dot Org
May 22, 2002 9:07 PM
Does boarding an airplane (cabin pressurization, canned air) make a grand mal siezure due to electrolyte imbalance more likley?

Obviously, if the event organizers are sending out a letter saying "it will be better" next year, more than one or two persons complained about how well the event was staged. Sounds like they have some liability, the question becomes how much.
I don't see what the big deal is. To all of those who say thatbill
May 23, 2002 3:16 AM
he should have stopped, I ask, when exactly was the guy supposed to realize that the organizers weren't going to come through? At mile 10? Mile 15? Mile 20? Suppose he did realize, is the damage already done? And, how's he getting home now? (Caveat, haven't had time to read the whole opinion; I will later and eat crow if I have to).
It's a jury issue.
without reading the article, i thinkSteveO
May 23, 2002 3:24 AM
the citizens of this country (not to mention the lawyers) need to start taking responsibility for themselves.

I dont care if you're struck by a car on a closed-course because the event-organizer (unknowingly, of course) hired a drunken policeman to control traffic, the organizer (imo) shouldnt be held liable.... ESPECIALLY to willing participants.

Dont blame others for your misfortune. %^&* happens. Get over it. This would be a much happier place to live (not to mention insurance would actually be affordable) if people accepted the fate of misfortune.

On a side note, a good friend of mine was attacked by her own dog the other night (friendly lab i've known for 8 years). Took her lip off. I wonder who SHE gets to sue?
SOMEONE must be responsible.
Steve, I agree and disagree (long...sorry)loop
May 23, 2002 5:21 AM
...with you. True, this has become a sue-happy, litigeous society, and I humorously believe that laywers are ruining the world.

That said, I was there for this race and I've read the complaint, so I think (hope) that I have a better perspective. The issue at hand is one of services that were paid for in good faith but not provided due to negligence/bad planning/poor execution. If one pays "X" amount for a service, then under the basic premise of commerce law, one is entitled to receive that service or, at the very least, the service-provider should make every effort possible to compensate the customer.

In this case, the 98 R & R marathon was a debacle. From the start, there was no way to tell how bad it was going to get, and with continued promises from the race officials that "there's stuff at the next aide station" and given the general mind-set (and expectiations) of someone doing the race, I think it's reasonable to expect that the service-provider should be true to his/her/their word. In this case, that didn't happen, and the promises were empty. The pace the individual ran at was not world class, so it's safe to assume that his medical state was not a result of over-exertion in spite of the deteriorating conditions of the race. Post-race hydration/recovery was his responsibility, but the damage was already done.

I speak from experience there too, although not at that race. That same year, the first MetRx triathlon in Lake Perris was equally appalling, with the bike course mismeasured and water and fluid replacements in extremely short supply. In the midst of a 5-7 hour half ironman ordeal, I too kept believing the race staff, who always said "there's stuff at the next station," and I was even foolish enough to begin the run, only to be side-lined by mile 8 by a group of volunteer, non-race-affiliated paramedics who took it upon themselves to intervene and treat people for extreme dehydration.

Do I take responsibility for my actions (IOW, for not dropping out after the first 31 mile bike loop and throttling the life out of the race director)? Yup, but then again, I had a reasonable expectation that the race director, whom I knew as a reputable race organizer, would hold true to their word and their contract with me--the paying customer--and the services I paid for (water, fluid replacement drinks, etc) would be provided. They weren't. In short, they didn't provide what I paid them for.

And that's the heart of the issue with the R & R marathon and the general argument, the litigeous "make me a millionaire, Mr. Lawyer" aspect notwithstanding.

Those of us who pay to race/participate in these events have a reasonable expectation that basic standards of service will be met as a function of the race entry that we purchase. Proper support, safe passage and medical support are understood parts of that contract. I'd hate to have the lawyers for the race organziers eventually be forced to make us sign intricate pre-race contracts and waivers of liability that specify exactly how much fluid we are each guaranteed. That would peg the silly-meter.

OBTW, I've been on the other side too, helping to organize and direct a running race once, granted only a 5K. Even at that short distance, I was impressed by the amount of work that went into the preparation and execution of the event. ...And we were rank ameratuers. I have profound appreciation for what a marathon, a half or full ironman or a century must entail. Still, if you're the race director, your responsibilities are known quantities, even if you have to lower your profit margin (albiet already small) to ensure that your customers are taken care of. It's common sense, and in that regard, YOUR responsibility.

Finally, WHAT THE HELL TYPE OF LAB BITES SOMEBODY'S LIP OFF?! Good grief Charlie Brown! I think she should sue the owner of the nearest pit bull, because no lab in the world has the disposition to do anything other th
true enough...SteveO
May 23, 2002 5:39 AM
Certainly there is some degree of obligation on the part of an organizer who (most probably, since every one ive done has) stated in advance 'water and replenishment fluids will be provide at miles blah blah blah'.

However, (i feel) it is still the responsibility of the competitor to decide whether he/she should continue when he/she determines the organizer did not meet his committments.

Lets draw a parallel to everyday (admittingly unrealistic) life:

when training for your marathons, i presume you do what most of us do; strategically place water along your long run, and shove gu (oranges, powerbars, whatever) down your shorts. Right?

So you head out for a 22 mile long run. Every water bottle you stashed through mile 15 is missing. You reach for your fuel, oops, hole in the pocket.

Nowthen, do you assume the last bottle you stashed at mile 20 will be there? Do you assume you'll make it without that orange? Nope, odds are you'll decide you'd better start walking. You realized ONLY YOU can look out for yourself, and made the responsible decision in your best interest.

Ultimate responsibility.

Having said that, i do feel bad this guy was injured, and also that you've experienced a bum race, but we've all been hurt and all blown money/time on bad days.


The dog; i dont know what his problem was (always friendly before, and friendly after). He WAS being treated for heartworm with several meds. The Vet said there's no way the medicine contributed.

Of course, due to todays litigation-conscious society, he MUST say that, otherwise he's admitting potential liability.
Well, acutally...loop
May 23, 2002 5:54 AM
...when I train for marathons or tri's I tend to forego proper hydration, nutrition or rest/recovery. My logic is twofold. First, I am able to find immediate blame for my poor race perfomance. "I could have qualified for Kona today, but I was over trained/dehydrated/eating too many Krispy Kremes...." Second, by training hard and not properly physiologically supporting myself, I can cop a buzz faster.

That said, I still agree and disagree. There's a point where one effectively looses the ability to rationally judge whether or not to continue. That's a physiological factor, and sometimes it's hard to predict where an individual will loose one's ability to judge--kinda/sorta racing's version of beer-goggles. The key, I think, is to make a decision before that point occurs. I've done that before too--my only DNF, which I elected to do before I aggrivated a moderate injury into a major one.

What I didn't catch in the article was how much the dude was suing for. If it's simply recovery of time/monies spent on the race, I think that's relatively reasonable. If it's for "hot coffee spilled in the lap millions," then I say NO F-ING WAY. That's where/how lawyers are ruining the world, because they push for these ludicrous amounts because they get a sizeable chunk.

I own a lab. To my knowledge, she hasn't ripped anybody's lips off, although she has a penchant for french kissing unsuspecting humans. Perhaps I should consider a pre-emptive lawsuit.

Tee hee.

May 23, 2002 6:03 AM
I feel dehydrated sitting at my desk without a waterbottle.

I couldnt imagine serious training w/out.

If i dont qualify for Boston or Kona next year, I'm just gonna sue for discrimination against slow people.
harumph harumph!loop
May 23, 2002 6:06 AM
We'll make it a class-action suit. I didn't say I don't hydrate at my isn't acceptable here. Now...if I could just get away from this silly message board and the giro coverage on the "other" site, I'd really be productive.
The lab attacked her?!?!?tronracer
May 23, 2002 11:38 AM
Did she do something to provoke it? Can the docs re-attach her lip. WHat is she going to do with the dog now that it has bit her on the face?

PS I think tarwheel has it right on
after reading and re-reading...JS Haiku Shop
May 23, 2002 5:21 AM
seems like he's ultimately responsible for his own actions. reasonable actions for the guy would have been to stop when he found that he was dehydrated such that water would not suffice, pull out of the race, and complain to the race organizers and demand his entry fees be returned. beyond that point, he took his fate in his own hands.

agree with carrying what you need during an event, to an extent. however, in the piddling organized runs i've done (never as much as even 1/2 marathon), you don't want to carry water, powder, and food for the distance expected. trail running or otherwise isolated exercise, yes--but on an organized marathon, one would expect for all sustinence (sp?) to be provided en route by the organizers, as a function of the entry fees (especially if they were touted in the event propaganda).

consider this: riding a double century in a part of the country where convenience stores and/or potable water were readily availble, would you stop en route and await sweep, make a detour at a store on the route for supplies, or continue on, thinking the last four SAGs without sports drink were just larks?

one more point: i can't read the word "component" anymore without hearing bob roll say "com-ponent" in my head.
some thoughts on thisDougSloan
May 23, 2002 5:42 AM
First, the case is not about a jury award. The trial court threw the case out, and the appellate court simply said that decision was wrong, that the plaintiff should be able to have a jury decide the relative fault of the runner and organizer.

A jury might very well decide the runner should get nothing. Or, they might decide that the runner is 99% at fault, and the organizer 1%. Anything could happen, but it certainly would appear that both could bear some of the responsibility.

At a minimum, it seems the organizer is liable for breach of contract by not provided what was promised. The runner probably did not even plead that, though, as there is no insurance coverage for breach of contract, and the damages are not the same.

I doubt there was fraud, in that the organizer misled the runners on purpose. That just doesn't make sense.

I certainly also seems that the organizer was negligent, that is, breached his duty of care to the runners; in a marathon, everyone expects water and sports drinks to be available, and when they aren't, health problems of the runners are foreseeable. Anyone who has participated in these things also well knows that you cannot reasonably expect runners (racers) to just stop when water is not available. If the organizers thought that they should, then they should have shut down the event.

Assumption of risk is a strange but somewhat reasonable idea in the law. But, it really means the "voluntary assumption of a known risk." It's not the same as a waiver of liability. Did the runners know the risk they were assuming? Probably not. Yes, a runner assumes the risk of health problems in a marathon (or bike race), but with the understanding that water will be available. I wouldn't even enter if I did not believe that.

Waivers and disclaimers are sometimes effective, depending upon the circumstances. If the event organizer had stated "we will not have water available," then I think that would hold up. Same thing with a waiver. Sure, the runner waives liability for the event organizer, but only for those things beyond the control of the organizer, really. So, if the runner has a heart attack at mile 2, no liability; however, if the organizer mows down the runner with his car, that's different. The runner did not waive that claim.

What's important about the case is the fundamental holding, that the organizer must make the event safe without changing the essential character of the sporting event. So, you can't expect the event to be shortened from 26.2 miles to 10 miles to make it safer. That changes the character. But, this was not an event with the purpose of seeing who can survive without water. A characteristic of the event is to run the full distance with water available.

Of course, there will be lots of marginal areas that make good litigation. Is full road closure necessary? Should runners have to look before crossing if traffic is being directed? (A marathon runner was killed in just such a situation in Kansas City when I was there years ago.)

In any event, I think the decision is essentially correct. It's up to a jury to decide relative liability and how much, if any, should be paid.

As a practical matter, yes, I think the runner should have stopped after not getting water, particularly if symptoms started, like delerium (been there). I believe the runner himself bears the brunt of the fault. At least that's what I'd say based upon the limited information we have.
Some comments Doug:Len J
May 23, 2002 5:59 AM
I have started to reply to this several timesbut each time I stopped. I have no legal backround, so my comments are more experiential than anything.

As a former competitive marathon runner (Personal best 2:26 in high school), I see both sides of this issue. When I was running, (late 60's early 70's) there was not alot of science involved, you just ran. Most (if not all) of my lenghty training runs involved little hydration and little energy replenishment. A normal 15 mile run would involve no water or food until it was done. It's just the way it was done. It was up to the runner to determine his capability. This has to be weighed against the "No pain no gain" mentality that requires you (especially in a marathon) to mentally overcome the pain. There is a fine line between enhancing performance by pushing thru the signals your body is sending and hurting yourself. Sometimes the only way to find these limits is to exceed them (Your experience in the 508 is an example). So I agree that the runner has a responsibility.

The organized definatly ran a terribly organized event. This is especially true today with the emphasis on continual hydration & feeding in all marathon training programs today (I'm not sure the same would be true 30 years ago). Promises were made, not met & someone suffered for it.

The one issue unspoken to is: What were the physical symptoms of the Plantiff between the end of the race & when he got on the plane? If he was this dehydrated, he should have had some. In addition, knowing that Plane rides accelerate dehydration, how much (if any) did he drink between the end of the race & boarding the plane, especially in light of knowing that he did not hydrate during the race. I would think that I would have been consuming large quantities of electrolyte fluids in the circumstances that were described.

Generaly I agree that there is much blame to go around. I sure wouldn't want to be on this jury.

May 23, 2002 5:59 AM
If this person had drank more plain water, the hyponatremia would have been much more severe...
May 23, 2002 6:05 AM
I agree. I just shorthanded "water and/or sports drink with electrolytes" to "water" for ease of reading.

BTW, I always carry salt tablets with me on long rides and events.

Thanks for the post and followup explanationAllisonHayes
May 23, 2002 6:33 AM
Like Len, I have thought about responding but stopped because I don't have a legal background.

Some questions I would want answered:

When does a runner become aware they are at risk of dehydration? We know now it is best to hydrate before we are thirsty and did she know that or would she even admit to it?

Your comment below is central to the argument and would make an excellent closing remark to the jury:

"... the organizer was negligent, that is, breached his duty of care to the runners; in a marathon, everyone expects water and sports drinks to be available, and when they aren't, health problems of the runners are foreseeable. Anyone who has participated in these things also well knows that you cannot reasonably expect runners (racers) to just stop when water is not available. If the organizers thought that they should, then they should have shut down the event."

It would appear that the race organizer was extremely negligent for not having appropriate hydration at intervals throughout the race.

Even if there is an award to the plaintiff, is there any possibility of collecting? That is, was the organizer insured?

Finally, it is unfortunate these things happen; but it also explains why there are high fees charged (to cover insurance) and, if we are going to participate in them, then we should just pay the fee and not try to be an interloper. After all, the reason for insurance it to mitigate against catastrophic situations and unforseen outcomes.
Thanks for the post and followup explanationDougSloan
May 23, 2002 6:55 AM
Oh, geez, now I'm making closing arguments by accident. What has happend to me? :-)

Each person gets to (or should) know the symptoms of dehydration for themselves. For me, I have found something very interesting -- I start getting cloudy vision in my right eye. Don't ask me why, but it has been dead on accurate. Rehydrate, the vision returns to normal. Getting thirsty is another one, right? Hyponatremia (salt depletion) is a little tougher. I start getting delerious, and water stops emptying from my digestive tract as it should, leading to some diarrhea. Here's an article on it:

I have no idea about collecting on a judgment here. My guess is that the organizer has insurance. That's what a chunk of the entry fee is for. If no insurance, the plaintiff will need to locate assets of the defendant to execute upon. That can be tough, and if the judgment is large enough, the defendant might well declare bankruptcy, and the judgment might be discharged. Hard to say.

By the way, I've never seen a cycling event anywhere nearly this bad.

I havemr_spin
May 23, 2002 7:19 AM
I also get the clouded eye. I used to get it a lot at the end of a ride and after, and sure enough, it goes away when I rehydrate.

My first century was hot and hard (it was 10K climbing for those who were paying attention a few days ago). After a long stretch of exposed climbing and wind, we were running on empty and very excited about the upcoming rest stop at mile 70. We get there, and they have no water. Amazing but true. We look around and dozens of cyclists are wandering around aimlessly, some almost punch drunk from heat stroke. Plenty of food, but no water. Luckily, my friend and I still had some left, and we also knew that if water didn't come in the time they promised, there was a store 1/4 mile away. Most people there probably had no idea a store was so close, because it was around a curve.

This was the inaugural running of the century, and not surprisingly, the final running as well.
You all (well, most of you) are completely brainwashed. Thebill
May 23, 2002 6:49 AM
insurance industry has you believing that the world is run by greedy lawyers and plaintiffs. The truth is far different. We have a world where insurance companies, which are investment companies who offer indemnity for premiums as a way of generating capital on the assumption that they will take in more than they pay out and then invest the rest in order to make LOTS and LOTS of money instead of just LOTS, suffer investment reversals and then head to legislatures with their phony-baloney "tort-explosion," "runaway juries," "greedy lawyer," "people have to take responsibility" BULLSHIT, and you all are swallowing it whole. The truth is that civil filings, other than commercial disputes and, I think, domestic filings, are DOWN, that jury verdicts are DOWN, that punitive damages are almost NEVER awarded and that the runaways tend to be when an Exxon tanker with a drunken captain ruins a state or when one oil company screws over another in a patently dishonest bait and switch. THE REST IS BULLSHIT.
Now that I've read the opinion, if the facts are as represented, I more than just agree with the appellate court. I'm MAD. No one can seriously say that the organizers weren't negligent. They were negligent as hell. Doug says it wasn't fraud? Well, what was it? Collect the entry fees, get people to come, promise the support that anyone would expect in a similar event,
and provide a couple of garbage cans full of water? And then get people to keep going by saying, don't worry, we got it at the next stop? And THEN, issue a statement about "taking responsibility" and then NOT?
Was the guy at fault at all himself? Probably. Some. Let the jury sort it out.
Which leads me to my next point. Jurors award money. Lawyers do not award money, and so-called "greedy plaintiffs" certainly do not get to award themselves money. Jurors do. Two sides step into a courtroom, the jury hears both, and the jury makes the call. And lots and lots of calls go the other way when they should not. Ask anyone in the trenches. I am a mediator in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which used to be a plaintiff's lottery-land, but no more. I can tell you about any number of rear-end collisions, where the injured person just wants to get paid for the week he was off from work, his medical bills, and a little bit for the month or two where his life was not over but pretty much sucked because some jackass blew through a stop sign. We're talking about trying to walk away with enough to buy a Jamis. The insurance company gets some nice pictures of the vehicle (they take great pictures if the damage is low, lousy pictures or no pictures if the damage is great), and they tell the plaintiff to pound sand, take it to the jury if you want, and the insurance companies WIN. As in NADA. No recovery for the plaintiff even though there was clearly some harm.
Talk about taking responsibility.
agree on someDougSloan
May 23, 2002 7:09 AM
I agree that the lawyers are not to blame (duh? :-) ). Juries award money, not lawyers. These things tend to be cyclic. I agree that we are on the downside of jury awards, maybe reacting to a perception of too many high awards for a while.

We don't know enough facts to get mad here, though. There likely are lots of facts that were not explored at the summary judgment or demurrer stage here. Typically, as you know, the defendant trying to get a case thrown out minimizes the facts and focuses on legal issues.

For all we know, the runner drank nothing following the event, or drank only pure water with no salt. Medical testimony might show that had he done so, he would have been fine. I don't know; all I'm saying is that it's premature to make a judgment about the ultimate outcome (don't we instruct the jurors not to decide the case until all of the evidence is heard?).

Nonetheless, I don't want to minimize or ignore the responsibility of the organizers here. This one looks pretty bad, probably about as bad as they get. But, again, what was the proximate or substantial cause of the injury -- not having water and salt early on, or not replacing it right after the event? Again, we don't know.

I would be tough, I'd imagine, to prove fraud. Did the organizers believe before the start of the race that there would not be water as promised, or did they simply not have a clue what they were doing? did half the volunteers not show up as promised? did someone's truck break down? -- we don't know.

On to the litigation lottery. :-)

Hey Bill, why don't you tell us how you really feel? :)AllisonHayes
May 23, 2002 7:10 AM
thanks for the insight into how things really work!! I think I will hire you and Doug next time I have a problem.
I like this analysis. As for the case at hand, why did the court128
May 23, 2002 7:13 AM
(I only skimmed it, mind you) and plaintiff approach this as first a negligence case (damages??)? Sounds in contract to me, and negligence. There is a breach to provide the water promised. If this slow poke runner (4 hours! what a pansy...GET A BIKE!) thought he'd just carry on without water, invoking the assumption of risk doctrine becomes obvious and relevant. I am stuck on the causation part of the negligence claim; did the subsequent travel harm him? Was he the classic eggshell plantiff. Did he have any (known)pre-existing conditions that contributed to the harm. I like the (likley)result, contributory negligence, sounds fair, but in the balance, I think Len's common sense/old school view is accurate as that was my first reaction too: back in the old days they probably didn't even have water stops bub...Drop it.(but of course here, there was the promise of water and be ripped too.)

Oh, yeah! My favorite part of the decision:

Saffro's only memory of running the marathon was a "vague recollection of hearing some music, some bands . . . ."
Contract damages would be value of the Gatorade he didn't get.bill
May 23, 2002 7:49 AM
Contract doesn't work much either way -- doesn't get the plaintiff much, and the release signed by the plaintiff as a contract doesn't much help the organizer (as you can see, they didn't even raise it). Every time I've looked at the issue of release, the law is pretty clear, I think, universally around this country, that you cannot release your personal injury rights on a negligence claim prior to the existence of the rights. That is, although in a contract claim, the defendant can claim release as a defense (the plaintiff's right to claim the value of his un-drunk Gatorade), in a personal injury action, a release acts only as notification to the plaintiff that hazards exist that cannot be prevented by the organizer's reasonable behavior.
The hazards the risk of which the plaintiff can be charged with assuming have to be those that are reasonably anticipated and that should not be or could not be prevented by reasonable behavior on the part of the organizer. Like, a bee sting, or a twisted ankle, or an errant car running barriers, or a stroke or heart attack, or some of the other risks that the posters above have mentioned, assuming that the organizers provided what we reasonably expect organizers to provide.
By the way, if the organizers had set up some sort of endurance deal, where they told you that they weren't providing squat and informed you that this race is different and dangerous, then I think that the plaintiff should lose on summary judgment.
don't forget the entry fee! :-) nmDougSloan
May 23, 2002 8:07 AM
brainwashed? and what does a car crash have to do with...gtx
May 23, 2002 8:57 AM
some dilettante who probably shouldn't be running marathons?
I love your postjtolleson
May 23, 2002 11:02 AM
Other than the lack of paragraph breaks.

Seriously, I've been practicing law for 14 years, and my practice is entirely insurance defense. I've seen my share of bogus p.i. suits and negligence theories. And honestly, if I were representing the event organizers I'd be coughing up a decent (not extravagant, but easily $50,000) settlement offer.

In most states the runner's contributory negligence won't be a bar to recovery; just a reduction. There's little question in my mind that the event's operation proximately caused most of his injuries.

I was on an organized cycling event 5 years ago where unseasonably hot weather meant that two consecutive aid stations were out of water. We kept going, assuming that the NEXT one would have it. Eventually it did -- no harm no foul. Besides, we were cyclists... what's going a little further in triple digits with an empty water bottle? But another station or two in similar shape could have been pretty dangerous. Would I have wised up? I like to think so. But then what. Wait in the heat for a sag wagon?

The outcome -- that the evidence created a triable question of fact which should go to a jury -- seems more than reasonable. As to the event organizers trying to shift blame to the plaintiff for believing that they would provide what was offered? Shame on them.