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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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August 1997 Vol. 23, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Itís Never Our Fault

from the August, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

As far back as 1993, Undercurrent was taking issue with the liability releases that divers were being made to sign in order to dive. The wording of many of these forms, which in some cases are given to you only after you have traveled halfway around the world, releases the operations from any responsibility for unsafe equipment, unsafe practices, unsafe air -- in other words, any negligence on their part, no matter how gross.

If an operation didn't bother to filter the air it pumped into your tank and you died from carbon monoxide poisoning, too bad. If your rental equipment failed because the dive operation could have its regulators overhauled cheaper by local car mechanics than by qualified technicians, tough luck -- you signed a release that said it could not be held responsible.

Diver Robert Ewald, an attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote us a release form that he believed was fair to both diver and operator, and Undercurrent printed it on the back page of its September 1994 issue.

Now, three years later, my pectoral fins stiffened again when a subscriber sent me another release form with a line I find particularly offensive: "Operation is exempt from negligence or gross negligence."

I fully understand the litigious society we live in and don't mind signing a release that states that I accept full responsibility for my own actions and risks that I take. It's signing something that says the operation is not responsible for its actions, regardless of how careless, reckless, or grossly negligent its personnel want to be, that bothers me.

Most operations will not let us dive with them unless we sign their release, and we usually don't see the release until we have already traveled to the destination. One way to contest this practice: develop a list of those operations with an "exempt from gross negligence" clause.

If you are presented with such a release, please copy and send it to John Q. Trigger at Undercurrent, PO Box 90215, Austin, TX 78709. If copying is not feasible, just drop me a card or e-mail me the name of the operation.

J. Q.

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