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Journal Times editorial: Waivers may be wave of the future
Our Perspective

Journal Times editorial: Waivers may be wave of the future

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The Trump campaign is holding rallies again, setting off a firestorm of concerns over thousands of people getting together in an arena for an extended time.

But in planning for the Tulsa event, the campaign may be introducing a way to move forward with big events in these COVID-19 times.

It’s quite simple really. Require people attending to sign a waiver.

A waiver puts tort law out of reach. By signing, you agree that you will not sue another person or business for negligent behavior or acknowledge that certain activities are inherently dangerous and you “assume the risk” of injury or death. These sort of waivers may be familiar if you’ve ever gone skiing.

In the case of the Trump rally, the waiver attached to the online registration for tickets reads like this:

“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”

Would you sign that waiver?

That’s your personal choice, and it should be the choice offered to us moving forward as the coronavirus remains a threat.

Experts say it likely will be at least a year before that threat is eased, so we should be able to decide — stay home or start doing things again. And if we attend events, we should sign away any right to sue.

Attend a Brewers game if baseball comes back? Sign a waiver. Or a concert a Fiserv Forum by a country star who decides to perform rather than cancel? Sign a waiver.

Let’s give the Trump campaign credit for the way it introduced this in a highly visible way.

Now others should adopt it and perhaps rethink canceled plans for summer events, festivals, even concerts — particularly those outside.

Locally, we’ve seen everything canceled during the precious summer months for family activities. If we do not see coronavirus spikes — and we are not seeing them now — we should be able to hold some events in late summer and early fall. Requiring a waiver would make sense.

Interestingly, the waiver debate is playing out around the country as states, colleges and businesses reopen. College football players are being asked to sign, as are customers just going to get their hair cut again.

In Washington, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its allies in Congress are pushing for a multiyear liability shield against COVID-19 lawsuits against businesses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that liability protections must be part of any new relief bill.

That’s the business debate, and it’s important. But it shouldn’t even be debated for big events. Require a waiver, like the Trump campaign is doing.

Here’s a way forward for events in 2020 and for people who want to attend them.


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