Moore v. Hartley Motors, Inc.

36 P.3d 628 (2001)

Quick Summary

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Gayle Moore (plaintiff) sued Hartley Motors and others (defendants) after being injured in an ATV safety course, challenging the validity of a liability waiver she had signed. The Supreme Court of Alaska considered whether there was consideration for the waiver and if it was against public policy.

The Court concluded that there was consideration through participation in the course and that it did not violate public policy. However, it reversed summary judgment to explore if the course layout was unreasonably dangerous beyond what the waiver covered.

Facts of the Case

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Gayle Moore (plaintiff) and her husband purchased an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) from Arctic Cat Motor Sports, which offered them a $50 rebate upon completion of an ATV rider safety course. The Moores enrolled in a course held on Hartley Motors, Inc.’s (defendant) property, where James Croak (defendant) taught using the ATV Safety Institute’s curriculum.

Before the class, participants, including the Moores, signed a waiver releasing the defendants from liability. During the class, Gayle was injured when her ATV struck a rock obscured by tall grass.

The Moores sued Hartley Motors, Croak, and others alleging negligence in providing a safe training course and location. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, and the Moores appealed.

Procedural Posture and History

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  1. The Moores filed a lawsuit against Hartley Motors, Inc., the ATV Safety Institute, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and James Croak alleging negligence.
  2. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
  3. The Moores appealed the summary judgment decision.

I.R.A.C. Format


Issue Icon
  • Whether the waiver signed by Moore was valid and enforceable.
  • Whether there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding the safety of the ATV rider training course layout.

Rule of Law

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An exculpatory release is only valid to the extent that it clearly and unequivocally expresses an intent to release from liability. Participation in a class can constitute consideration for such a release.

However, public policy may render a release invalid if it involves a service of great importance to the public or if the service provider has a decisive advantage in bargaining strength.

Reasoning and Analysis

Reasoning Icon

The court found that Moore received consideration for the release through her participation in the ATV safety course. It also held that the release did not violate public policy since ATV riding is not an essential service regulated by legislature as skiing is, and Moore had a choice to participate.

However, the court reversed summary judgment because there was a factual dispute about whether the course layout was inherently dangerous beyond the ordinary risks assumed in the waiver.


Conclusion Icon

The Supreme Court of Alaska reversed the grant of summary judgment for the defendants and remanded the case for further proceedings to determine if the ATV safety course layout posed an unnecessary danger not covered by the waiver.

Key Takeaways

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  1. An exculpatory release is valid if it clearly expresses an intent to release from liability and is supported by consideration.
  2. A release may not protect against liability for negligence that creates an unnecessary danger beyond inherent risks.
  3. Public policy does not invalidate a release when the activity is not essential and regulated, and when there is no significant bargaining power imbalance.

Relevant FAQs of this case

What determines the validity of an exculpatory release from a legal standpoint?

A valid exculpatory release requires a clear, unequivocal expression of the parties’ intent to waive liability, and it must be supported by consideration—something of value exchanged between the parties. It should not contravene public policy or protect against gross negligence or willful misconduct.

  • For example: A gym may require members to sign a waiver acknowledging the inherent risks of exercise and releasing the gym from liability for common injuries related to workouts, which is considered valid consideration in exchange for using the facility’s services.

How does public policy impact the enforceability of liability waivers?

Liability waivers can be unenforceable if they infringe upon public interests, such as waivers for essential services or those involving a significant disparity in bargaining power. Waivers that exempt providers from regulatory obligations or standard care duties are often void.

  • For example: An apartment building cannot enforce a waiver that absolves them of all responsibility for maintaining safe premises, as it would be against tenants’ rights and housing regulations.

What constitutes sufficient consideration for a contract to be valid and enforceable?

Sufficient consideration in a contract occurs when something of value, either tangible or intangible, is exchanged between parties. The consideration must be legal and confer some benefit upon the promisor or some detriment to the promisee.

  • For example: In a subscription service agreement, the customer’s payment is consideration for receiving the service, just as access to the service is consideration for the company accepting payment.


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