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Ask Our Lawyer - December 2006

Q.        My local chapter is going to have an event, and one of the members has suggested that we use a release form and have the participants sign it.  Another member said that they had heard that releases weren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  What’s the real story?

A:         Releases, waivers – call them what you will, they should be an important part of almost every A.B.A.T.E. event.  Properly written, they help protect the organization and its members from liability should something unfortunate happen.
Careful drafting is essential to creating a release that is effective and enforceable.  You should always consult with the state office for advice or with an attorney to make sure your release will be effective.  Here are some things you should look for:
1. The words RELEASE OF LIABILITY or similar words should be conspicuous.  Also, releases should not use unnecessary legalese – releases should be clear and understandable to the average person.
2. The participant should specifically acknowledge the dangers inherent in the event and clearly state that he will assume all responsibility for his own welfare.  This provision indicates that the participant is aware of the potential risks he faces, including the negligence of the event organizer or operator, and is making a knowing release of all future claims.
3. The participant promises not to make a claim for damages or injuries resulting from the event.
4. Because the release is a contract, it must be supported by "consideration."  This is something given by the sponsor in exchange for the release of future claims, like permission to participate in the event.
5. All contracts must be signed by an adult.  In most states, this is eighteen years old.  If the participant is a minor, his legal guardian (usually a parent) must sign for him.
6. The release must provide for indemnification, which is a participant's promise to take care of any lawsuit filed by their representative.  It is important that the participant or his estate promise to reimburse the sponsor if anyone else files a claim based on the participant's involvement in the event.
7. A statement that the signing party has read the release and knows what he is signing.  Every participant must sign the release himself and may not let a buddy do it for him.

While powerful, releases have their limitations.  Releases cannot protect an organization from the intentional or reckless acts that cause harm, nor will they be effective if they are not signed.   If you have any questions, call us.

Karen Bolin, RIP

MRF President Karen Bolin has died –  her remarkable achievements prove there is no glass ceiling in the motorcycle rights movement.

Some of these Others think that Karen Bolin was not your typical motorcycle rights freedom fighter.  Although Karen was the best of the best in the rights movement, some thought her unique because she was a woman in a man's world.  If they only knew!  The Motorcycle Rights Movement exists because of women leaders like Karen.  No doubt many politicians were taken by surprise at the sight of Karen leading the charge for motorcyclists in Washington, D.C.  With her keen memory, wonderful organization skills and that so-powerful soft sell, Karen always, always won and walked away with another admirer of the organization she led so well.  She was the exemplar of women in the Rights Movement.  To a person, these women were always equal to their male counter-parts.  I would like to think they had wonderful fathers who taught them there are no limits in a man's world.  That is the only credit we men could hope for.

Karen was the pinnacle of a long line of talented women who knew no bounds.  Many today have forgotten that Wanda Hummel founded A.B.A.T.E. of Indiana, or that Lee Ryan led A.B.A.T.E. of Ohio, or that a prime mover and shaker in A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois is Pauli Ward.  Pauli and her then husband were part of the founding movement in Illinois. Pauli is the most organized human being I have ever met and A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois shines because of her.   Pick up the A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois News and you will see that about half of the officers are women.  Names like Linda Pasetti-Olsen, Julie Bacon, Paulette Pinkham, Elizabeth Kren, Deb King, Laura Mayer and Sharilyn Kibler-Russell grace the officer's directory.  Illinois' ABATE-PAC has Mary Burgett, Shar Sonnenberg, Patsy Harrington, Martha Kelley and Rita Bostleman--exactly one half of the members.  Patsy Harrington's daughter has been taught well--she is following in mom's footsteps.  Or look in Indiana, and you will see Teresa Bodle, De Dillon, Tina McCormack, Kim Tyger, Mary Walton, Bonnie Brown and Angel Sherer.

These women, and others like them, stand out in front of the Rights Movement, and Karen represents them all.  How about the countless number of women who toil is support of this movement by the side of their husbands?  Has anyone ever seen Michael Farabaugh, the Movement's great leader from Indiana, without his wife Deb?  Michael founded the MRF, and we all know his wonderful wife Deb was there, by his side, working harder than anyone.

Karen proved that the Motorcycling Movement has no glass ceiling.  I would like to say it was because of the equality-minded men that also take up that cause, but we know that is not totally true.  We know that it is mostly because women like Karen were just better and they would have bubbled to the top of any cause they were part of.  Karen proved that the motorcycling rights movement may just be a woman's world.

Re-mounting a License Plate

Several months ago, I discussed the laws regarding placement of license plates on motorcycles.  One of our readers contacted us and wanted some additional information for other states.  In fact, our writer is a peace officer on the east coast.  He had tried to find the laws in Pennsylvania regarding license plates, but couldn’t find anything.   After a little research, I found that under Pennsylvania law, “Every registration plate shall, at all times, be securely fastened to the vehicle to which it is assigned or on which its use is authorized in accordance with regulations promulgated by the department.”  In addition, the administrative code in Pennsylvania requires that “Every registration plate shall be securely fastened to the vehicle:
            (1)  So as to be clearly visible.
            (2)  In a horizontal position.
            (3)  At a height of not less than 12 inches from the ground, measuring from the bottom of the registration plate.
            (4)  So as to prevent the registration plate from swinging.
            Not all states require a horizontal placement, but enough do that you should check with your local motor vehicle office to make sure your bike is properly plated.

Gate Keeper Supreme Has Died

Bill Hinson, manager of the Boogie property, has passed.  I would like to say this comes to us as a surprise, but we all knew Bill had a bad heart even though it was made of gold.  He went at everything like he was killing snakes.  Bill was a man of the land, and the BOOGIE LAND was the land he loved.  He knew every inch of that property, and cared for it as if it were
his own.

Bill and I connected from the first time I saw the trademark twinkle in his eye.  He was a Future Farmer of America — so was I.  He worked for the Farm Bureau Coop.– so did I.  He was born on June 20th, and so was my oldest child.

Bill loved his dogs, and I never met a dog lover that I didn't like.  Whether it was his dogs, family or friends, Bill loved hard.  Someone once described Bill as a tough looking biker with his full beard and outdoors appearance. I thought the opposite; that he looked like St. Peter's gate keeper– ready to take care of things up there just like he did down here.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: Ask Our Lawyer, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services