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Let’s go roaring into Monday!


This is a blog that incorporates some legal with some presidential history. Plus food. Which covers some of my favorite topics.

Which brings me to a picture that one of my friends posted on Facebook:


I love the marketing idea of making something to eat seem so “dangerous” at a restaurant, that a person has to sign a waiver before eating. Hence, the Gettysburg Ghost Wing challenge. Does this mean that you have assumed all risks when you start gnawing on the wings? If you look closely, I am guessing that “under my own fruition” is an indication that this was written by a chef, not a lawyer. Just a clue?

When is a release not really a release? When does a document that is called waiver or release, completely serve as a liability release? I cannot say that I have an absolute answer, but there are some items to consider. Or said in restaurant terms and not legal… Don’t stick a fork in your rights just yet, they might not be waived!

First, how about some presidential food history? President Zachary Taylor attended 4th of July festivities at the dedication of the area where the Washington Monument was to be erected (1850). He reportedly stood in the heat and ate massive quantities of cherries; gulped down several containers of ice milk; and then returned to the White House, where he drank several glasses of water. (kinda nauseates me just thinking about that)

Taylor got sick and died four days later. Many historians now believe that he died from eating too many cherries. In 1980 after much debate, his body was exhumed because of questions of causation of death. It was confirmed that he had not been poisoned.

I throw that story in because I do not believe that anyone would sign a release if they believed that death by food was a possibility. No matter how good cherries might be or how exciting it would be to win a chicken wing eating contest. In that circumstance, there is not an appreciation of what they would be waiving or releasing.

When a person is taken to the hospital, there is a possibility that paperwork will be put in front of them to be responsible for their medical bill. Sometimes there is also a release included. I have seen people being handed paperwork to sign, despite being in need of medical services. “Just sign here” doesn’t necessarily equate to reading, understanding and knowingly releasing anyone from liability for medical treatment. And that is my excuse for including more presidential history today.

President James Garfield was shot at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station after less than 4 months in office (July 2,1881). Charles J. Guiteau shot him because he felt that he had been slighted when he failed to receive a political appointment. I think that is called false entitlement.

But here is the part of story as it relates to Our Blog. Garfield was still conscious after being shot. He was taken upstairs at the train station and doctors began treating there. But, they were unable to find the bullet in Garfield’s body. So, he was carried back to the White House for continuing treatment.

The next morning, his vital signs were good and everyone had hope for a recovery. Garfield was fully alert. Throughout the summer, he continued to live; but remained nauseated and sick with a fever. Navy engineers were even brought in to devise a cooling system that amounted to large fans blowing over ice boxes, to keep the President cool.

But, Garfield remained sick, with his weight dropping from over 200, to a weight of about 135 pounds. Garfield died on September 19.

It was later determined that the cause of death was because of his treatment and not the bullet. In their attempt to find the bullet, doctors used a newly invented “metal detector” device to locate it. Curiously, an invention by Alexander Graham Bell. You probably remember that earlier he was successful in the invention of the telephone. His success with metal detectors…not so much.

Unfortunately, the metal-detecting device “detected” the metal bed springs instead of the bullet. This caused the doctors to cut in the wrong places in Garfield’s body, while in search of the bullet. Many cuts and a punctured lung left Garfield with a raging infection and streptococcus. All because of bad medical treatment from his doctors.

History also reflects that the care received by Garfield included doctors searching for the bullet with dirty hands, and unsterilized medical instruments. All these factors contributed to the infections that ultimately killed him.

Just as a connection to the blog, imagine if they had made him sign a release on the way up to the second floor of the railroad. Sometimes there are some crazy circumstances when patients are made to sign paperwork.

So, where does that lead us regarding the effectiveness of a release?  Well, there is no absolute answer. In fact, a signing of a release or a waiver can certainly end up waiving rights. But here are just a few of the things to consider, in determining if a waiver or release is valid:

The release should recite what is actually being released and the extent of the release. There should be some consideration for the release. For instance, is consideration that you are “allowed to pay and eat dangerous wings”? And, are both parties are in agreement about what is being released. Is there a “meeting of the minds”?

One final thought. Tomorrow’s blog is going to be about the trial of the man who was charged with the murder of President Garfield. It was wilder that Reality TV. Crazier than the treatment from those doctors. (One curious part of history is that Garfield’s Secretary of War at the time he was shot…Robert Todd Lincoln. Yes, the first son of Abraham Lincoln)

And for pic o’ day, how about one for the foodies… Sometimes it’s OK to take some risk! Right?


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