Many business owners and consumers ask if liability waivers (or releases) are legally enforceable. In North Carolina, contracts which attempt to release parties from liability are called “exculpatory contracts.”
Exculpatory contracts will generally be enforced in North Carolina unless they violate a statute, are the result of an inequality of bargaining power, or are contrary to a substantial public interest. In addition, the language of the contract and the intent of the parties must be clearly exculpatory in order for the contract to be enforced by a court.
In a decision issued today, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled on a self-storage rental agreement which stated that the “landlord shall not be liable to tenant and/or tenants guest or invitees for any personal injuries sustained by tenant and/or tenants guest or invitees while on or about landlord’s premises.” The Court of Appeals concluded that the exculpatory contract was “clear, unambiguous, and enforceable” and that it clearly absolved the defendant from personal injury claims. Hyatt v. Mini Storage on the Green, No. COA 14-215 (N.C. App. Sept. 16, 2014).