Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

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ThankYouJack
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Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by ThankYouJack » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:07 am

I'm a member of a pretty large organization and have been asked to organize some outings on Meetup.com. I've also thought about starting my own organization and having a Meetup group for it. All of the activities will be legal and I obviously wouldn't force anyone to do anything, but they will be a bit more high risk and prone to injuries (like say a ski or mountain bike trip) and with certain legal cases, wacky things seem to happen so I want to be on the cautious side.

Liability seems very limited on the Meetup side - https://www.meetup.com/help/article/898561/ So I may want participants to sign a waiver, but there are problems with that as pointed out in the Meetup article. I have personal umbrella insurance, but also wondering if I should get business insurance (I'm considering starting a very small business that is sort of related). Anyway, I plan to speak with an attorney but first wanted to get feedback about it on here. Thanks.

carolinaman
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by carolinaman » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:27 am

I have served on the board for several non profits. We always had insurance to protect us from things happening, like someone injuring themselves at one of our events or other things. Insurance cost was always pretty inexpensive, but we were not doing high risk activities. I am not a lawyer but would think you have similar exposure, perhaps more so, considering the riskiness of your events. It is a good idea to meet with an attorney to clarify your risk and deal with it.

Sandi_k
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by Sandi_k » Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:45 pm

I organized a large group boating event for 15 years (50+ people). It was fine until we got some hot doggers who decided they were going to do what they wanted, regardless of boating laws and risky behavior.

We had regular safety meetings, signed waivers, etc. But when the risky behavior got truculent, I got scared about liability, even with an umbrella policy.

So I stopped.

We now have regular ad hoc rides, with people we have ridden with for years. Groups of no more than 8-10, all experienced. Not organized, just a couple of emails or texts about "hey, we're going out on Sunday...wanna come?"

Much better. ;) YMMV.

ThankYouJack
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by ThankYouJack » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:03 pm

Sandi_k wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:45 pm
I organized a large group boating event for 15 years (50+ people). It was fine until we got some hot doggers who decided they were going to do what they wanted, regardless of boating laws and risky behavior.

We had regular safety meetings, signed waivers, etc. But when the risky behavior got truculent, I got scared about liability, even with an umbrella policy.

So I stopped.

We now have regular ad hoc rides, with people we have ridden with for years. Groups of no more than 8-10, all experienced. Not organized, just a couple of emails or texts about "hey, we're going out on Sunday...wanna come?"

Much better. ;) YMMV.
That's a good point. If business insurance is too $, I could just do a couple meetups that have very limited risk and get people to still sign waivers. But for the more adventurous things, we could just not promote it and just have it be friends

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dm200
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by dm200 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:15 pm

For what you describe I would do NOTHING without being 100% sure such events were covered under an organization's liability type insurance.

The activities you describe are the very types of activities that are commonly associated with participants consuming alcohol - greatly increasing risks.

fishboat
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by fishboat » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:32 pm

I've been attending MeetUp events for several years now and have had my own group for about two years. We do 8-12 mile hikes, kayak, 30-50 mile day-rides or short tours via bicycle, camp..and anything else that catches our interest. Most members are 50+ years old. While we may grab a beer and a sandwich after an activity, there's no alcohol during an event. We're more interested in getting some exercise and meeting new people in the process than catching a buzz.

All my event descriptions close with the following: "Fine print..The Organizer or Event Hosts are not guides. This is an all-volunteer event. By attending this event you agree to the following: Liability Disclaimer, please read in it's entirety. (followed by link to the liability disclaimer)"

Any liability disclaimer that MeetUp corporate publishes only covers MU corporate. Organizers(site-group owners) often have their own disclaimer. Many organizers have no disclaimer at all..frankly, I don't think they have any clue with respect to liability. Some organizers, a couple cycling groups in particular come to mind, have disclaimers that everyone signs prior to an event. I considered liability exposure when I started my group. Most of my events have regular-known attendees, though we typically get new people joining in...that's what MU is about. If someone is clearly not up to an event I tend to screen them before the event. In my region there are many hundreds of events going on over a year's time that involve thousands of people. I've never heard of even one MU-related liability lawsuit, nor have I found any on the web. Which is not to say it couldn't happen tomorrow, or today.

By all means discuss with your attorney (I'd be interested in your takeaways from the meeting..). My gut says that the more you set up your group as a business, the more risk you may be taking on.

sleepysurf
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by sleepysurf » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:00 pm

I'm a Meetup Organizer for a local group, and also wondered how to address this. I looked at some other Meetup groups that had Liability Waivers on their site, and we ended up customizing our own, which is included on our main "About" page. Fortunately, we don't participate in higher risk activities, so a club member who is an Attorney thought it would suffice.

Here's a Meetup Help link with some suggestions... https://www.meetup.com/help/article/898492/
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runner3081
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by runner3081 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:39 pm

You can purchase special event policies for no more than $100 online. We have done this for parties and company functions before.

stlutz
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by stlutz » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:56 pm

If you want to hear from a lawyer on the issue:

https://www.bicycling.com/rides/safety- ... wer-yours/

I lead a lot of rides with a cycling club in my area and know folks in a lot of other clubs as well. The one lawsuit I'm aware of wasn't related to an accident or injury but to a rider's placement in a timed event.

livesoft
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by livesoft » Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:06 pm

The big deal was the alcohol policy for us. Some folks became inebriated and did unsafe and uncouth things.
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miamivice
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Re: Liability Issues with Organizing Meetup Events

Post by miamivice » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:56 am

ThankYouJack wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:07 am
I'm a member of a pretty large organization and have been asked to organize some outings on Meetup.com. I've also thought about starting my own organization and having a Meetup group for it. All of the activities will be legal and I obviously wouldn't force anyone to do anything, but they will be a bit more high risk and prone to injuries (like say a ski or mountain bike trip) and with certain legal cases, wacky things seem to happen so I want to be on the cautious side.
I think your attorney will review with you the principles of tort law, and (importantly), how this might be applied in your state. My understanding is that for a tort liability lawsuit to be won, there are several tests that must be passed:

1. ThankYouJack must have had a duty to care for the random meetup person
2. ThankYouJack must have breached this duty.
3. The injury must have resulted as a result of ThankYouJack's breach in duty.

For the aforementioned meetup events, it's hard to say without more specific information. If you are organizing an event to go skiing on the ski hill, which is serviced by ski patrol, lift accessed, and everybody buys lift tickets, I would have a hard time believing that the tort tests above would be passed to cause the organizer to be liable for any injuries.

If on the other hand, you lead a group of newbie skiers into the backcountry after a considerable snowfall, where you are not in lift serviced terrain, there is no ski patrol, you bring no safety equipment, and folks are trusting that you know what you are doing; and a avalanche occurs and everbody dies except for you, I would definitely expect a lawsuit.

There is considerable discussion above about liability releases. It's my understanding that these don't hold up in court. i.e., if you are negligent (per the tort tests above) a judge or jury will still find you negligent whether or not a waiver was signed. I think they are beneficial to discourage one from suing you in the first place, but I don't think that they change a jurors mind very often.

As others have said, I am not an attorney, rather, it's my rambling thoughts...so please discuss with the attorney in your state like you said you would and they can give you legal advice.

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