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Wrongful Death Claim Barred By Waiver (PA)

July 19, 2019

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<p style="line-height: 18pt; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 12.75pt; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #303030;">In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Valentino-v.-Philadelphia-Triathlon-LLC.pdf">Valentino v. Philadelphia Triathlon, LLC</a></em></span><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #303030;">,the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Eastern District, recently determined whether an express assumption of the risk agreement executed by a triathlon participant serves as a defense to a wrongful death claim commenced by the participant’s heir, who was not a signatory to the agreement.</span></p>
<p style="line-height: 18pt; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 12.75pt; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #303030;">The decedent participated in a triathlon hosted by Philadelphia Triathlon which was conducted, in part, along a river.  During the course of the triathlon, the decedent drowned in the river.  The trial court eventually granted summary judgment in favor of Philadelphia Triathlon on the basis that the validly executed release waiver completely barred the heir’s action.  The heir appealed this decision arguing that Pennsylvania law does not apply the limitations therein to heirs suing under the wrongful death statute.</span></p>
<p style="line-height: 18pt; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 12.75pt; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #303030;">The appellate division affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Triathlon, explaining that by knowingly and voluntarily executing a valid agreement expressly assuming the risks inherent in participating in the event, decedent ended Triathlon’s duty of care, thus rendering its conduct nontortious.  Absent tortious conduct, a wrongful death claim could not survive as a matter of law because the Wrongful Death Act premises recovery upon a wrongful act, neglect, unlawful violence, or negligence of another.  The court further explained that while a decedent’s valid assumption of the risk agreement does not negate his heir’s right to commence a wrongful death lawsuit, it can bolster a defense asserting that the alleged tortfeasor owed no duty.</span></p>
<p style="line-height: 18pt; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 12.75pt; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #303030;">Thanks to Chelsea Rendelman for her contribution to this post.  Please contact </span><a href="mailto:gcoats@wcmlaw.com"><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #1982d1;">Georgia Coats</span></a><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #303030;"> with any questions.</span></p>
<p style="line-height: 18.0pt; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 12.75pt 0in;"><span style="font-family: 'Open Sans','serif'; color: #303030;"> </span></p>

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