A disclaimer is any statement that is used to specify or limit the scope of obligations and rights that are enforceable in a legally recognized relationship (such as host/visitor, manufacturer/consumer, etc.). The disclaimer usually acts to relieve a party of liability in situations involving risk or uncertainty.
A very common form of disclaimer is a warning label or sign. For example, an owner of a playground may post a sign stating “use or enter at your own risk.” Such a disclaimer may then lessen or remove the owner’s liability in the event that a visitor gets injured while on the playground.
A disclaimer may or may not be enforceable, depending on the nature of the disclaimer, as well as the laws of each individual state. Disclaimers can be used in nearly every type of social or legal relationship. Thus, proving a disclaimer is enforceable can sometimes be a complex task.
Another issue is whether the aggrieved party consented to the disclaimer or not. In almost all cases, a disclaimer is not enforceable if the other party did not consent to it, or was forced or coerced into recognizing the disclaimer.
A person may consent to a disclaimer in many different ways. For example, a disclaimer can sometimes be contained in a contract, and the party may consent to it by signing the contract. Or, the party’s actions might demonstrate their consent, for example, by being present on property with dangerous conditions even after reading warning signs.
Disclaimers can be used in nearly any situation involving risk of harm, injury, or economic loss. Some common examples and usages of disclaimers may include:
- Warning signs posted on playgrounds, sports arenas, constructions sites or other area involving risk of physical injury (“enter at your own risk” or “use at your own risk”)
- As part of the packaging or advertising for consumer products- failing to provide adequate warnings or disclaimers can result in a products liability lawsuit
- For certain medications and supplements (such as herbal products- “not intended to treat or diagnose any medical symptoms)
- As part of a contract or contractual provisions (for example, waiving the right to sue or the right to collect certain forms of monetary damages)
- As a license allowing a person to be on business premises or to use certain property, subject to limitations
There may be many other different types of disclaimers. In some states, certain disclaimers are prohibited and have no legal effect, even if a party attempts to enforce them. Also, disclaimers cannot violate any other area of law, especially those involving discrimination or constitutional violations.
The basic effect of all disclaimers is that it relieves one of the parties from some or all legal liability. For example, for high-risk activities such as sky diving, the patron is usually required to sign a waiver or disclaimer. These types of documents basically release the sky diving company for liability for injuries sustained during the activity.
If you have signed such a document, it may limit your ability to recover damages in court. Thus, you should always consider the consequences carefully before you consent to any document that contains a disclaimer. You may wish to have a legal expert such as a lawyer review the document so that you understand your rights.
The laws governing disclaimers may be very different from region to region. If you are unsure about the laws in your area, or if you have a legal issue involving a disclaimer, you may wish to contact a lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you regarding your rights and the enforceability of the disclaimer.