The promoter of a monster truck show was tragically killed by a monster truck in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend. George Eisenhart Jr.'s death came one day after he touted the show's safety, and about a week after a boy was killed at a monster truck show in Tacoma.
The AP reports that Eisenhart, president and owner of Image Productions and a 15 year veteran of putting on monster truck shows, was killed after walking in front of one of the trucks during Saturday night's Monster Nationals Monster Truck & Thrill Show in Madison. Danniel Patrick, a twenty year veteran of the monster truck circuit, was driving the monster truck Samson that killed Eisenhart.
One day beforehand, Eisenhart tried to ease any fears of danger at his monster truck show. He reportedly told CNN affiliate WKOW, "This is our 16th year. I wish I had a big piece of wood to knock on right now, but we have not had an incident besides a gal slipping in the aisleway at another location."
Just over a week ago, the AP reported that six year old Sebastian Hizey was killed at the Monster Jam show in Tacoma Washington, an event unaffiliated with Eisenhart's Image Productions. Hizey was killed by a frisbee sized piece of metal which flew off of monster truck Natural High as it cut donuts on the track.
Though fatalities at monster truck shows are reportedly rare, two in just over one week might make people wonder about the "assumption of risk" information printed on the back of many tickets for events and sporting activities (ski lift tickets, for example). As reported by the Tacoma News Tribune, Tacoma Dome events such as the Monster Jam where Sebastian Hizey was killed, have the following printed on them: "You assume any and all risks occurring before, during or after the event, including injury by any cause. You release management, facility, league, participants, clubs, Ticketmaster, and their respective affiliates and representatives from any related claims."
Such assumption of risk agreements do not forbid people from suing over accidents that happen during sporting events. They can be used as a defense by the venue, event organizer, or whomever else gets sued, but whether they work depends on the situation. The victim in question would need to be shown to have assumed the risk that caused their injury.
For someone to have assumed the risks involved in attending a given event, they must be able to foresee the risk in question. People going to a baseball game can foresee the risk of foul balls. People sitting courtside at a basketball game can foresee the risk of a player falling out of bounds. Chunks of metal flying off of monster trucks, however, may be a different question. Further, even if the agreement says all risks are assumed, you do not assume the risk of someone else's negligence, recklessness or malicious intent causing you an injury.
And when the injury happens to a child, such as Sebastian Hizey, such waivers can be meaningless. Children cannot legally waive their rights and adults can't waive such rights for them.