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This is a Contract (But Not Really)

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On a typical Saturday afternoon, it is not uncommon to run a variety of errands or enjoy several activities.  For instance, last Saturday, perhaps you dropped off your clothes at the dry cleaner, went to a baseball game, and ended the evening at a fancy restaurant.

Believe it or not, you may have entered into three contracts that day.  How could this be?  Well, when you dropped your clothes off at the dry cleaner, you probably received a ticket in exchange.  If you read the fine language of the ticket, it most likely states something to the effect of:  “we are not responsible for damaging your clothes, shrinking any items, or losing your clothes.”  Think about that for a moment … you specifically dropped your clothes off at the dry cleaner for the dry cleaner to clean it and return it to you.  In return, the dry cleaner gave you a ticket that says they may or may not clean your clothes, and they may or may not lose your clothes altogether.” Is this legal?

When you went to the baseball game, you also received a ticket.  Most likely the front of the ticket had a picture of a player or team logo, and somewhere on the side it stated the section, row, and seat number.  But take a closer look at the back of the ticket.  The back of the ticket basically states that you have agreed never to take any pictures, or even tell anyone about the game.  Furthermore, you have also agreed that the baseball stadium is also not responsible for anything that happens to you while at the game – such as a personal injury, theft, or even defamation!!! Is this legal?

Finally, what about the restaurant?  Surely, there was no contract here.  Well, what about the parking valet?  When you got out of your car, you were handed a ticket.  Take a look at the back of the ticket the next time you get one.  Similar to the dry cleaner and the baseball stadium, the parking valet is not responsible for your car.  The ticket basically states that even though you gave the valet the car for the express purpose of parking it, they are not responsible for parking it.  The valet could personally steal your car, and the ticket says you can’t do anything.  Is this legal?

The answer to all three is “maybe.”  These days, everyone puts up a sign that says “not responsible for … (Fill in the blank here).”  Luckily, the law of California does not grant authority simply by putting up a sign.  Similarly, you can’t hand someone a piece of paper, not allow them the chance to read it, and locked them into a contract.  If that was possible, Bill Gates could never walk down the street.

The lesson here is simple.  No matter what a contract, or ticket states on it, you still have rights.  If you have been personally injured or had your property damaged or stolen, you should consult with a lawyer.  Bring the ticket or “contract” with you, and your lawyer can tell you if you are bound by the terms.  Often times, you will be surprised by the result.

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