When drafting contracts, it is advisable to use contract language which courts have already approved and enforced. This is especially true for exculpatory clauses, which must be clear and unambiguous.
In Vignaraj Munsami Pillay v. Public Storage, Inc., Florida’s Fourth District considered an appeal arising from a dispute between a renter and a storage facility. The Plaintiff claimed breach of contract and gross negligence; the application of the exculpatory clause in the rental agreement, however, led to an affirmance of summary judgment in favor of the Defendant storage facility.
Why is this important? The following language was enforced by a Florida court. Consider using this language — or compare to your existing contract language — to ensure you have a valid exculpatory clause in Florida:
(1) ALL PERSONAL PROPERTY IS STORED BY OCCUPANT AT OCCUPANT’S SOLE RISK.
(2) Owner and Owner’s agents . . . will not be responsible for, and Tenant releases Owner and Owner’s agents from any responsibility for, any loss, liability, claim, expense, damage to property . . . including without limitation any Loss arising from the active or passive acts, omission or negligence of Owner or Owner’s agents.
(3) Tenant has inspected the Premises and the Property and hereby acknowledges and agrees that Owner does not represent or guarantee the safety or security of the Premises or the Property or any of the personal property stored therein, and this Rental Agreement does not create any contractual obligation for Owner to increase or maintain such safety or security.
One, do not just cut and paste the foregoing into your contract and think you are protected. It needs to fit with the other language of your agreement. This is critically important. You need to ensure defined terms are correct, the scope is accurate, and that you are covering risks which are specific to you. A good lawyer should be able to do this for a few hundred dollars. Enforcing an exculpatory clause and ended a lawsuit against you is worth a few hundred dollars now.
Two, keep in mind that the plaintiff was a non-lawyer representing himself. It is possible that not all viable arguments were raised since the party represented himself. It can happen.