From time to time, we all hear stories in the news about ridiculous lawsuits, and as a Meetup Organizer and owner of rental properties, I always get a little voice in my head telling me, "It could happen to you!" I have great insurance and legal protections in place for my rental properties, but this doesn't make much sense in the Meetup.com arena. That would be utter silliness and a total waste of money. Nobody would ever volunteer to host any kind of group if they had to carry extensive liability insurance, right?
Thankfully, Meetup.com has taken steps to make sure that everyone who signs up as a member on Meetup.com electronically signs a liability waiver in the Terms of Service Agreement before their membership becomes active. Most organizers are quite OK, as they should be, with keeping it simple and using Meetup.com's waiver as their sole legal protection. But because backpacking is an inherently dangerous activity for many reasons, I have decided to make a separate set of liability notifications for each member to read. Starting on 6/11/08, each member has been notified by email of the liability information that follows, and has been directed to keep abreast of any changes made in the "About Us" pages by periodically monitoring this section of our website, because these policies will change and evolve as needed. Additionally, new members each receive a "Welcome Message" which includes a general greeting, gear list information, and specific instructions to read the liability information in the "About Us" section. I have taken several steps to ensure that each and every member knows that as a volunteer group, we each participate in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Backpackers Meetup Group at our own individual risk.
From the group email dated 6/11/08:
"I wanted to briefly address the liability issues, or lack thereof, of being an Organizer, Assistant Organizer, Trip Leader, Bootcamp Leader, carpool driver, or regular Minneapolis/St. Paul Backpackers Meetup Group member. When you sign up as a member of Meetup.com, you are required to electronically sign a liability waiver holding Meetup.com free from liability. This is one reason we will never allow guests to be present on trips. Participation in The Minneapolis/St. Paul Backpackers Meetup Group is always at a member's own risk. The following information, as well as other rules, regulations, and member expectations and requirements for membership, will be posted in the "About Us" section of The Minneapolis/St. Paul Backpackers Meetup Group website after they are finalized. This information will evolve and change over time, so it is the individual member's responsibility to check this section to assure compliance with requirements and expectations of group membership. Advice as to appropriate content is always welcome, as I (as well as your Assistant Organizers) do not pretend to be any sort of legal expert. Our society is often ridiculously litigious, and our attempts to have a fun group shouldn't be overridden with liability concerns. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Backpackers Meetup Group is a volunteer group that operates with no budget and doesn't routinely collect any fees from it's members, except when deemed necessary to cover specific expenses (water filter cartridges, replenishments for first-aid kits, etc). We spend our own personal money and our own time to make a group that is fun for our membership. We are not a business and we do not carry liability insurance of any kind. We are usually going on trips in locations where there is no cell phone service or any other way to communicate with local authorities, and your organizers and trip leaders will not have access to any type of emergency communication device. If you feel the need to have access to emergency medical service or transport or to the outside world in general, it is your individual responsibility to purchase and operate such devices. It is also your responsibility to provide a basic emergency medical kit to cover any injuries you might sustain while on a trip."
Further information gleaned from the Meetup Terms of Service Agreement, dated 6/10/08:
Meetings at Venues
6.1 Meetup Meetings. Through our Platform we provide tools that enable our users to arrange physical meetings (a "Meetup Meeting") at venues that include, but are not limited to, public parks, private homes or private enterprises (such as coffee shops or retail stores). We do not supervise these Meetup Meetings and are not involved in any way with the actions of any individuals at these Meetup Meetings. As a result, we have no control over the identity or actions of the individuals who are present at these Meetup Meetings, and we request that our users exercise caution and good judgment when attending these Meetup Meetings.
6.2 Release. Because we do not supervise or control the Meetup Group Meetings or interactions among or between members of Meetups or Alliances and other persons or companies, and because we are not involved in any way with physical transportation to or from Meetup Group Meetings or with the actions of any individuals at Meetup Meetings, and because we do not control Amazon.com, PayPal, credit card companies or other payment processing companies, and because we cannot guarantee the true identity, age, nationality of Platform users, and because we have very limited control, if any, over the quality, safety, morality, legality, truthfulness or accuracy of various aspects of the Platform you agree that you bear all risk and you agree to release us (and our officers, directors, shareholders, agents, employees, affiliates, subsidiaries, and third party partners) and Organizers and their designees from claims, demands, and damages (actual and consequential) of every kind and nature, known and unknown, suspected and unsuspected, disclosed and undisclosed, now and in the future, arising out of or in any way connected with your use of the Platform, your Third Party Transactions, our resolution of any disputes among users, and/or your transportation to or from, attendance at, or the actions of you or other persons at, a Meetup Gathering. You further waive any and all rights and benefits otherwise conferred by any statutory or non-statutory law of any jurisdiction that would purport to limit the scope of a release or waiver. You waive and relinquish all rights and benefits which you have or may have under Section 1542 of the Civil Code of the State of California or any similar provision of the statutory or non-statutory law of any other jurisdiction (including without limitation the states of Missouri, Delaware and Pennsylvania) to the full extent that you may lawfully waive all such rights and benefits.
12. Warranties; Liability
12.2 Limitation of Liability. You agree that in no event shall Meetup be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential or exemplary damages, including but not limited to, damages for loss of profits, goodwill, use, data or other intangible losses (even if Meetup has been advised of the possibility of such damages), arising out of or in connection with our Platform or this Agreement or the inability to use our Platform (however arising, including negligence), arising out of or in connection with Third Party Transactions or arising out of or in connection with your use of our Platform or transportation to or from Meetup Gatherings , attendance at Meetup Gatherings, participation in or exclusion from Meetup Groups or Meetup Alliances, and the actions of you or others at Meetup Gatherings. Our liability to you or any third parties in any circumstance is limited to the greater of (a) the amount of fees, if any, you pay to us in the twelve (12) months prior to the action giving rise to liability, and (b) $100.
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|Video from the sled, 12-25-08, 2nd attempt||December 28, 2008 3:47 PM||JuliAnne|
|Video from the sled, 12-25-08, first attempt||December 28, 2008 3:44 PM||JuliAnne|
|Liability Thoughts and Information - PLEASE READ!||June 13, 2010 1:24 PM||JuliAnne|
|Backpackers Meetup Policies||June 9, 2010 3:31 PM||JuliAnne|
|About The Minneapolis/St. Paul Backpackers Meetup Group||March 9, 2010 5:11 PM||JuliAnne|